04.28.2009 08:10 AM
Senators Support Funds to Fill DTV Gaps
Maine Republican Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins have introduced legislation to help broadcasters acquire additional DTV transmission gear to fill gaps in broadcast coverage in rural areas of the United States.

The “DTV Cliff Effect Assistance Act” would provide $125 million to broadcasters, primarily in rural areas to purchase digital translators that would boost DTV reception. The estimated cost for construction of digital repeaters or translator towers run approximately $80,000-$100,000 each to build. The FCC last year approved the use of digital repeaters for such use.

“Delaying the conversion to digital television until June 12th has afforded families and seniors additional time to prepare for the digital update and ensure a smooth and easy transition for their home television equipment. However, there are still several geographic areas in Maine and throughout the nation that will have a weak digital signal or no signal at all, posing a real threat to the access of digital television,” said Senator Snowe, a senior member of the Senate Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over the issue. “By providing critical funding for the construction of digital broadcast towers, this legislation will close gaps in the digital coverage of full-power stations and ensure the upcoming transition is as seamless as possible for all Americans, regardless of where they live.”

David Donovan, president of the Association for Maximum Service Television, praised the proposed legislation.

"The legislation will clearly help rural communities," Donovan said. "Many community owned translators do not have the financial resources to make the transition. This legislation will help these translators maintain their current service areas, thereby insuring rural viewers continue to have access to free, over-the-air digital television.”

As an ardent supporter of the Universal Service Fund, Snowe, in particular, has been a strong advocate for providing federal assistance to expand technology to rural areas.

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Posted by: Tom Butts
Wed, 04-29-2009 11:38 AM Report Comment
An issue for consumers with regard to the digital transition is the expense. While the U.S. government is offering two $40 coupons per household to subsidize the purchase of the devices, the average retail price of a digital converter box is over $50 and the least expensive new model sells for about $46 so the consumer still has some cost to bear. Nursing homes, assisted living facilities and similar institutions can obtain free digital TV converter boxes for residents by obtaining a government discount coupon and ordering through SolidSignal.com. The company will also provide free shipping and free support by telephone as part of their community relations program. SolidSignal.com is offering this program to non-profit organizations nationwide through June 12, 2009, the digital broadcast transition date, while inventory is available. The online application for the government coupon can be filled out at http://www.dtv2009.gov/. Once the coupons are received, the facility director can call SolidSignal.com toll free at 1-866-374-4625 to place the order to receive the converter boxes that will receive digital TV signals after the transition.

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