Senior Letter - January 2008
With the hustle and bustle of the holidays having come to a close, now is the time we can settle in and gear up for some favorite Bay State pastimes – watching the Patriots play football and/or the Celtics move across the basketball court. Many of us choose to do this from the comforts of our homes, watching the games on our television sets. Soon, game-day will go digital, and our television sets will undergo the largest transition in TV since color came to the screen. On February 17, 2009, television broadcasters nationwide will make the transition from analog to digital broadcasting as mandated by federal law. We can begin preparing for this transition now, and this letter helps inform you as to how.
In the fall of 2005, Congress approved a plan for the digital television transition and set a date, February 17, 2009, to end all analog broadcasts. Congress passed this law, in part, to help find and free new frequencies for emergency communications. The Association of Public Television Stations, in coordination with the Federal Emergency Management Agency is harnessing local Public Television stations’ digital infrastructure to form the backbone of the Digital Emergency Alert System (DEAS). The DEAS is designed to enhance the delivery service of national alerts and warnings.
Sets not connected to cable or satellite (sets that use an antenna), or sets that do not have a built-in digital tuner, will need a converter box to continue receiving broadcast television signals after February 17, 2009. Television sets connected to cable or satellite do not require a converter; however, it is possible that your provider will require you to lease a “set top box” or have a TV with a digital cable tuner to maintain the digital services they provide. I encourage you to contact your service provider to inquire about these potential changes.
To assist households that have television sets that require a converter box when the transition occurs, Congress approved funding for a program to offset the converter box cost. Starting JANUARY 1, 2008 each household in America can request up to two $40 coupons to be used toward the purchase of certain converter boxes (converter boxes are expected to be on the market for about $50-$75). The government agency responsible for this program is the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), U.S. Department of Commerce. Requests for coupons will be taken by the NTIA beginning January 1, 2008, and going through March 31, 2009, by calling 1-888-388-2009.
As always I encourage you to contact Cheryl Gresek, Constituent Service Representative, in the Office of Congressman John Tierney at 1-978-531-1669 if you need additional assistance.
John F. Tierney
Member of Congress