During the 9/11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina, there were massive breakdowns in the communication networks of our first-responders. The communications equipment used by first-responders had to compete with the same analog airwaves used by broadcast television.
Subsequently, as part of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, Congress mandated that free local broadcast television stations turn off their analog channels by February 17, 2009, and transition all broadcasts into digital television, also known as DTV.
Once the analog airwaves are cleared, the government will use the vacant airwave spectrum for public safety communications so that police, fire departments and rescue squads can communicate properly during a disaster.
As a result of the DTV transition, most consumer analog televisions will stop working on February 18, 2009. According to a 2007 Consumer Electronics report, approximately 370,000 households in Arizona will be affected by the DTV transition. In fact, Arizona ranks 13th in the nation for the most households that receive over-the-air broadcast. It is important that all Arizonans understand the transition, and if affected, take the necessary steps to receive a digital signal before next year's deadline.
The first step is to determine whether you have an analog television. If you have a television that receives free, over-the-air television programming with a roof-top antenna or "rabbit ears," you likely have an analog TV. It is important to note that the transition will not affect those with analog television who subscribe to cable, satellite or a telephone company television service provider.
If you will be affected by the transition, the next step is to consider your options to switch to DTV before the deadline. First, you can purchase a DTV converter box that plugs into your existing analog set and allows you to receive free television reception. The government is sponsoring a $40 coupon program that will allow all households with analog televisions to offset the cost of a DTV converter box.
Another option is to buy a new TV set with a built-in digital tuner. By law, as of March 1, 2007, all U.S. televisions that are newly manufactured must contain a digital tuner.
Finally, you could also subscribe to a cable, satellite or a telephone company television service provider, all of which allow consumers to receive digital television signals on their analog television.
If you know someone who might be affected by this upcoming transition, please share this information.
And, for more information, the National Association of Broadcasters is sponsoring a free, public awareness campaign that can provide speakers to address groups and answer any individual questions. It can be reached at (877) MY-DTV-09.
Finally, please feel free to contact any of my offices with questions.