Daniel K. InouyeSenatorBetween 15 and 21 million households rely exclusively on over-the-air television. Many more have second and third over-the-air sets in their homes. In February 2009, these Americans could see their televisions go dark, disconnecting them from news, public safety announcements, and their community unless they get a converter box and attach it to their television.Yet far too few of these consumers know that the transition from current analog television technology to digital television, or DTV, is underway.An article in last month’s National Journal stated that only 10 percent of our citizens know that the DTV transition is slated for 2009. Many stakeholders in industry, in government, and in our communities are engaged in well-intended efforts to publicize and promote the upcoming transition. To date, however, their efforts have yielded too few results.We need to get the digital transition right. Consumers stand to benefit mightily from the DTV transition.They can expect sharper pictures, served up with CD-quality sound, that provide a dramatically improved viewing experience. DTV also makes possible multicasting. This could mean whole new channels devoted to local news, weather, children’s fare, and non-English language programming.Along with these improvements, public safety will receive unbroken slices of our airways to enable interoperable communications and improved information sharing.Managing the transition is by no means easy. We are now nearly 18 months away. We have seen working groups, conferences, tip sheets, and a converter box coupon plan. What we do not have yet is a public that is aware that the digital transition is taking place.The time to act is now—before the digital transition devolves into digital disaster. We must work together to ensure that no citizen is left behind in the transition to digital television.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, released the following statement submitted today during a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the digital television transition (DTV) scheduled for February 17, 2009.
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this important hearing. One of the most important steps this Committee took last year, on a bipartisan basis, was to set a hard date for the digital television transition. This transition will reap important benefits for all Americans, but especially with respect to public safety because they will receive much needed spectrum. Additionally, the auction will fund vital programs like the $1 billion for interoperability grants, $1.5 billion for the convertor box program, more than $7.3 billion for deficit reduction and $43.5 million for E-911.
“As such, Congress cannot afford to let the transition delay or fail. I am concerned that some of the proposals currently coming out of the FCC regarding the auction may threaten the overall value and affect the American taxpayer by potentially costing them billions of dollars.
“With respect to the TV side of the transition, I am pleased by the progress made to date. We all know that some elements will require special attention. I look forward to hearing from our witnesses as to how the transition will address rural areas of the country, like Alaska. We have our fair share of residents in Alaska who rely solely on broadcast TV for their news and entertainment. I am also concerned that no demographic is overlooked as the transition moves forward. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”
Witness Panel 1
The Honorable John KneuerAssistant Secretary of Commerce, Communications and InformationNational Telecommunications Information Administration
Ms. Cathy SeidelChief, Consumer and Governmental Affairs BureauFederal Communications Commission
Witness Panel 2
Ms. Nelda BarnettMember, Board of DirectorsAARP
Ms. Nancy ZirkinVice President/Director of Public PolicyLeadership Conference on Civil Rights