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Klobuchar Tells FCC and NTIA to Address Looming Technical Concerns with DTV Transition

Friday, January 2nd, 2009 at 8:38 am

Washington, D.C. – In a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar continued to push the two agencies to prepare for consumers who may be unable to receive digital television service when the transition takes effect this February. She also pressed them to ensure call centers are staffed with the technical knowledge to help consumers.

“In just two months, some television viewers may unknowingly find themselves on the wrong side of the “digital cliff,” or subject to other technical issues concerning coverage. If that happens, the ability for consumers to reach call center staff with the appropriate technical knowledge will be paramount,” said Klobuchar in her letter. “These agencies must ensure that all established call centers – both public and private – are able to answer consumer questions not only about converter box set-up, but also about coverage gaps, antenna upgrades, and other technical issues.”

Klobuchar has been working throughout the past year to make sure the agencies overseeing the transition are addressing potential problems and educating consumers. At a Commerce Committee hearing on DTV in April, Senator Klobuchar first raised the need to educate consumers about the issue of the so-called “digital cliff” to the FCC and NTIA, fearing that some consumers may not be able to receive digital signals even after purchasing a converter box or new digital television without significant antenna upgrades.

Senator Klobuchar again brought this to the agencies attention this past September after the test switch-over in Wilmington, N.C. confirmed that antenna and other technical issues made up a significant percentage of consumer complaints regarding the upcoming transition.

Senator Klobuchar’s efforts have highlighted that of the people potentially affected by the digital cliff problem live in rural areas, the same people who may be least able to afford an upgrade to their antenna system or to subscribe to a cable, satellite, or other video provider.

Tens of millions of TV sets nationwide will be affected by the change to digital broadcasting, including 430,000 households in Minnesota.

Klobuchar has worked to supplement efforts to help consumers understand the switch to DTV. Earlier this year she partnered with Minnesota-based retailer Best Buy and officials from the Minnesota AARP and the Minnesota Broadcasters Association to help raise awareness of the upcoming switch to DTV. In April, Klobuchar’s staff made visits to seven Minnesota cities to educate consumers about the transition. Many of the visits included employees from electronics retailers who helped explain and demonstrate the switch to DTV.

“Preparing for the digital transition is especially important for consumers.” Klobuchar said. “In Minnesota, more than 21 percent of our households depend exclusively on over-the-air broadcast TV – they will be most affected by the transition and they need to know what’s coming their way.’’

Senator Klobuchar has also created a special section on her Senate website here to provide detailed guidance to consumers about the digital transition, due to take effect on February 17, 2009.

(From Office of Amy Klobuchar)

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