The switch to digital television in the U.S. was a landmark event when you consider the sheer scale of the project. With more than 116 million households nationwide, according to recent U.S. Census estimates, that’s a lot of new TVs. Thus, there were a lot of logistics for the Federal Communications Commission-mandated 2009 switch from analog signals to digital transmissions. Below, we break down the Clear TV Key, what digital TV is and why the measure to allow broadcasters to drop their analog signals was made.
The groundwork for the 2009 transition was actually laid in 1996, when the Digital Television Transitions was approved by Congress. That measure meant every television station could broadcast an additional digital channel while continuing to send out analog waves for TVs to pick up. The June 12, 2009 deadline for all broadcasters to go completely digital meant a major shift for consumers; their older televisions would cease to pick up the signals to be converted into pictures and sound for entertainment. While the quality of the images was to improve, the trade-off was that anybody interested in continuing to watch cable television would need a new TV with a digital antenna.
Those opting out could still receive major broadcast channels with help from antennas that hit the market after the switch. These devices allow for the reception of the major stations plus a dozen local special interest channels. The federal government also assisted in the move by providing millions of vouchers for digital converter boxes for those in a budgetary bind, but wanting to stick with the times.
For the industry, the real reason behind the move was to clear up the clutter. Many bemoaned the move as busy work that was sure to inconvenience millions and disrupt something that, essentially, wasn’t broken in the first place. According to the FCC, sending digital-only transmissions would allow for more space for wireless signals, public safety communications and other transmissions.