February 17, 2009: The Digital TV Deadline
Author: Josh Maronde
Editor: Shawn Knight
Date: 12-06-2007
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February 17, 2009: The Digital TV Deadline


The government of the United States of America has a message for you: "All your TV are belong to us". Ok, well maybe the US government didn't say that but they have said that all full-power television stations will no longer be able to broadcast their signal on analog channels come February 17, 2009.

What is a full power TV station and why should you care? For simplicity, let's just say that almost all of the TV stations in America are full power television stations. If the TV channel you watch doesn't regularly show or tell you their call sign (ie. Something-CA, Something-LP, KOCIA30), then you are watching a full-power television station. If you use rabbit-ears or some other type of antenna to watch free over-the-air television then you should care because starting 12 a.m. local time on Sunday, February 17, 2009, the only show to watch using your analog TV will be reruns of static. Fear not, as your analog TV will not be "just for decoration" if you plan accordingly. Will February 17, 2009 be D(igital)-Day or D(ooms)-Day for you?

Why the Change?

The reasons behind the Digital TV deadline might not be what you think. One possible reason could have been a low early adoption rate of digital televisions, causing manufacturers to lobby Congress. Let's face it, most people do not like change, so why would the average consumer want to buy a new set that costs thousands of dollars when they could get a new analog TV for a few hundred dollars?

Another reason might be that September 11th and Hurricane Katrina revealed numerous communication issues with emergency first responders. The Digital Television Transition and Public Safety Act of 2005 states that many of the analog channels that will not be in use after 2-17-2009 will be used to create public safety communication systems that are compatible with one another when needed.

Lastly, the most sinister of all reasons, could be that the US government has found a clever way to reduce the deficit. The Digital Television Transition and Public Safety Act of 2005 is Title III of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, Public Law 109-171. The analog channels 59 through 69 will be auctioned off. Cellular service providers such as Sprint and AT&T will be able to purchase these frequencies with hopes of using them to develop enhanced wireless broadband services. The law states that on September 30, 2009, $7,363,000,000 (billion dollars) will be transfered from the Digital Television Transition and Public Safety Fund to the general fund of the United States Treasury.

I think the reason for the deadline is all of the above but decide for yourself. So, how will this affect you and what should you know in advance? Continue ahead...


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