(National) Oct. 5, 2004 - The change in television from black and white to color 40-years-ago was considered revolutionary. Dennis Wharton with the Association of Broadcasting says the digital revolution will make just as many waves, "For the consumer, it means a vastly superior product, the sound is much better, the picture quality is absolutely phenomenal."
Congress imposed a deadline on converting today's analog television system to digital by the end of 2006, but that can be delayed until 85% of the public can receive a digital signal. Michael Powell, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, says they must work at break neck speed to persuade the public to go digital, "If handled well by those who provide programming, it could mean lots more specialized programming and more sophistication for the public and that would be good for the public."
Some Americans have already bought into digital television. Nearly 2.4 million digital sets have been sold this year, which is an 80% increase over last year. Even so, only 6% of American households have digital TV.
Powell says digital TV will not only give consumers a much better picture, but it will also release the analog spectrum for other services, "We want to use it for public safety and first responders: police department, fire departments. We want it back so it can be used in the creation of internet broadband, better mobile services."
Broadcasters estimate the transition will cost them $16 billion and right now a digital TV set will cost consumers about $1000.