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US Digital TV Transition in Jeopardy

The transition from analog TV to digital TV in the United States was dealt a blow last week when a Senate panel decided against instituting a hard deadline for TV networks to end analog broadcasts. The proposed deadline would have required the end of analog broadcasts by 2009, which would have freed up valuable wireless frequencies that could be used for a variety of applications, including wireless broadband Internet and emergency communication by public workers. The panel did propose setting aside $1 billion dollars to help consumers upgrade their TVs to support digital broadcasts. (What are they going to do? Send us checks?) The next step for the legislation isn't clear, but without a hard deadline, consumers will be reluctant to spend the money on new TVs to enable the switch. And networks won't be forced to turn over their analog airwaves until 85 percent of residents in a market have the equipment to receive digital signals, which might not happen in our lifetimes, at this rate. Digital TV enables networks to use less bandwidth to provide high-quality, clear, and sharper images.

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