Defining Digital: Why the switch to DTV?

With the switch to digital television less than four months away, we are trying to help you better understand what's happening. Yesterday we looked at the science behind television and the switch to digital. Today we take a look at why the conversion from analog is happening in the first place.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right? That may be how you look at the switch from analog to digital broadcasting. But back in 1996, Congress saw it differently, when it adopted sweeping changes in a new Telecommunications Act. Not only would digital broadcasting create better delivery of TV signals. It also would allow the spectrum to be used for other technologies. To explain, let's go back to yesterday's lesson on the science of TV: Up in the air and all around us are millions of waves moving around in what's known as the electromagnetic spectrum. The goal of the digital switch is to make more efficient use of the broadcast space and free up a part of the spectrum. Think of it as a valuable piece of real estate.

"A third of it is gonna be given to a lot of this public safety," said Megan Pollock, spokeswoman for the Consumer Electronics Association. "You can think of a lot of times like 9/11, like Hurricane Katrina, when we could've had better communication. This is gonna provide a more seamless way to communicate between firefighters, police officers, different EMS units."

And the other two-thirds? Much of the space the government gave TV broadcasters for free is now up for sale, bringing billions of dollars into the Treasury, and giving space to new technologies.

"You're gonna start to see innovations we've never seen before," Pollock said. "Wireless, WiFi, Internet across the city applications, innovations that we haven't seen come to our cell phones yet, but that we're gonna see start to roll out in the next couple of years."

So for now we'll have to be content with a clearer picture on our TV screens and the anticipation of the things to come.

As we learned last week, our area will move to digital first, because Wilmington is one of the few media markets where all the stations are ready. Wednesday we find out which of you will be affected by the big switch.

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I have a concern about receiving uninterrupted critical TV weather coverage here during severe storms and tornado warnings once analog transmissions are discontinued. My husband is trying out a digital converter, and we can consistently receive only one station! We are able to receive 8-10 analog stations using the same antenna! When dangerous weather approaches, following the path of severe storms or the path of tornado's is very reliable on analog stations, but as soon as the weather surrounds us, the digital station is effectively blacked-out! This is similar to the way that satellite TV transmissions are blocked. It is assumed that even if we are forced to buy a decibel power-gain appliance and power-up our antenna reception, we will still be without critical weather warning broadcasts when they are needed the most as digital signals are unreliable at best when blanketed by heavy weather... Can you help me understand how rural America will be notified of severe weather and kept safe (as possible) when analog weather newscasts are no longer available? I believe this is a very valid concern that should be addressed immediately with everyone who is vulnerable to such severe weather threats.
what happens to those who have portable televisions that they use during storms? It is necessary to watch storm warnings and if they have no electricity, then no television. those boxes do not work without power.
ANALOG TV WHEN YOU GET A TORNADO WARNING YOU HEAR ABOUT IT AS IT IS HAPPENING. DIGITAL TV DELAYS EVERYTHING APPROXAMATELY 15 SECONDS AND WHEN THERE IS A STORM IT USUALLY KNOCKS OUT THE SIGNAL 15 TO 20 MINUTES BEFORE THE WARNINGS ARE EVEN ISSUED. SO WE GET OUT OUR 13 INCH TV PULL UP THE RABBIT EARS AND WATCH ANALOG BECAUSE OUR DIGITAL TV LOST SIGNAL AND EVERYTHING THEY SAY ON ANALOG YOU HEAR IT 15 SECONDS SOONER THAN DIGITAL. IN THE LAST TEN YEARS THEY HAVE ONLY GAINED ABOUT 20 SECONDS ON STORM WARNINGS AND DTV TAKES AWAY ABOUT 15 SECONDS OF THAT. WHAT DO YOU THINK?
I'm with Grats: I also have a concern about receiving uninterrupted critical TV weather coverage here during severe storms and tornado warnings once analog transmissions are discontinued. My husband is trying out a digital converter, and we can consistently receive only one station! We are able to receive 8-10 analog stations using the same antenna! When dangerous weather approaches, following the path of severe storms or the path of tornados is very reliable on analog stations, but as soon as the weather surrounds us, the digital station is effectively blacked-out! This is similar to the way that satellite TV transmissions are blocked. It is assumed that even if we are forced to buy a decibel power-gain appliance and power-up our antenna reception, we will still be without critical weather warning broadcasts when they are needed the most as digital signals are unreliable at best when blanketed by heavy weather... Can you help me understand how rural America will be notified of severe weather and kept safe (as possible) when analog weather newscasts are no longer available? I believe this is a very valid concern that should be addressed immediately with everyone who is vulnerable to such severe weather threats. Thank you. Sharon Jones RURAL USA
You get the same information from just about any radio station during a storm.
First of all I don't have cable or satellite tv, extra bill that I'm unable to afford. With the price of gas going up every day who can afford the bill. I want to take a vacation this summer & with fuel prices increasing every day I have to tighten the belt buckle & cut corners on all those little luxuries like having cable, going out to eat (even Subway is becoming out of my price range), renting a movie (I check them out at the library-free), going to the movies-definitely, shopping, day trips to the beach (too much for gas, parking, eating, etc.) I have found that I'm experiencing more of life since I don't watch tv. Very exciting!!!! So people TURN OFF THE TV & GET OUTDOORS!
I made this comment a while back but I never did see it posted. Will try again. TV in any form doesn't make much difference to me. We never had a TV until I was 8 yrs old and we could only watch it on the weekends. With 2 stations there was nothing on to watch anyway. By the time we got a 3rd station I was a teenager and didn't care about TV. We had other things to do then. I have a computer, so if we have electricity, I can find out what I want to. Radio also works great. I can't afford a cable or satellite bill either and I can't remember when I ate out at a restaurant last. Last time i bought groceries at the Food Lion I wrote the check for $5.00 more so I could get enough gas to get the groceries home. As soon as this heat wave passes I will get back out to working in my yard and BTW as I told my daughter I learned the art of reading so books are nice too.