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.