Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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December 12, 2008

Preparing for a blackout Legislation targets DTV transition

We’ve all probably heard by now about the pending Feb. 17, 2009, transition to digital television. However, the looming transition is still creating some confusion, and not everyone is 100 percent sure about what they must do to keep their old analog-only televisions working after Feb. 17, 2009.

Many lawmakers in Congress are concerned as well. That’s why the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Short-Term Analog Flash and Emergency Readiness Act Thursday night. The Senate passed the same measure last month. It’s now heading to President Bush for his signature.

While it has a long name, the goal of the legislation is quite simple. It seeks to preserve access to critical emergency information for millions of Americans at risk of losing their over-the-air television signal during next year’s digital television transition, according to U.S. Rep. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.

“I firmly believe that our nation is not ready to make this transition, and most experts agree that this switch will unleash a massive amount of consumer confusion,” Rockefeller said. “And when people are cut off from their televisions, it is not just a matter of convenience, it’s a matter of public safety. We simply cannot stand by and let people lose access to emergency alerts and public safety communications.”

Rockefeller said the looming transition will impact the nation’s most vulnerable citizens — the poor, the elderly, and the disabled. “We risk leaving those who are most reliant on over-the-air broadcast television for their contact with the outside world literally in the dark.”

Rockefeller said the Short-Term Analog Flash and Emergency Readiness Act would make sure that those consumers who fail to make the switch to DTV by Feb. 17, 2009 are not left behind without emergency information.

The bill permits a 30-day continuation of old analog signals — which were originally to be cut off on Feb. 17, 2009 — to make sure that consumers who fail to make the switch to DTV by Feb. 17, 2000, are not left behind and have additional time to make the digital transition.

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