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Preparing Consumers for the End of the Digital Television Transition

AARP's testimony before the Committee discussed the four critical issues concerning the impact of the digital television transition on older Americans:

1) Consumers, particularly older Americans, increasingly rely on the essential service television provides in the home. Today, television offers more than just entertainment; it is also a source of information about what is happening in the community and around the world. It provides consumers with life-saving weather forecasts, information on government, politics, and community news, and brings them closer to every corner of the world. For the mid-life and older Americans AARP represents, television can be a primary connection to the outside world.

2) While digital television offers benefits for consumers, there are also significant costs to consider in the transition from over-the-air broadcast-only television. Consumers anticipate the benefits this new technology will offer. However, there are also significant costs associated with this transition. The transition from over-the-air broadcast TV to digital TV will place millions of consumers at risk of losing their television service entirely and will require them to purchase additional equipment in order to continue to enjoy a service they have been receiving for free.

3) Costs incurred by consumers will be disproportionately imposed on those least able to afford them and steps must be taken to mitigate these costs. AARP's major concern is with the 21 million consumers, many of them older citizens, with over-the-air broadcast-only television sets. A disproportionate number of these consumers are on fixed incomes and/or are in lower income brackets. We urge Congress to consider the health and welfare of these consumers and arrange an assistance program that is directed toward those in greatest need.

4) A comprehensive and wide-reaching consumer education program must be instituted well in advance of any determined date of the transition to digital television. An important first step to alleviate the negative impacts of this transition is to educate the general public well in advance of the date when the transition will be complete. AARP recommends that a comprehensive plan to educate the general public be implemented at least one year before the transition occurs.

Good morning. Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for this opportunity to testify today, on behalf of AARP, regarding a timely and important consumer issue, the transition from analog to digital television. My name is Lavada DeSalles. I'm from Sacramento, California and I am a member of AARP's Board of Directors.

My remarks this morning will focus on four critical issues concerning the impact of the digital television transition on older Americans:

  • 1) Consumers, particularly older Americans, increasingly rely on the essential service television provides in the home;
  • 2) While digital television offers benefits for consumers, there are also significant costs to consider in the transition from analog, or over-the-air broadcast-only, television;
  • 3) Costs incurred by consumers will be disproportionately imposed on those least able to afford them and steps must be taken to mitigate these costs; and
  • 4) A comprehensive and wide-reaching consumer education program must be instituted well in advance of any determined date of the transition to digital television.

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