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Highlights

The United States is currently undergoing a transition from analog to digital broadcast television. This transition offers the promise of more television programming options, interactive television, and high-definition television. An additional goal of the digital television (DTV) transition is for the federal government to reclaim radiofrequencies--or spectrum--that broadcasters currently use to transmit analog television signals. Because of the virtual explosion of wireless applications in recent years, there is considerable concern that future spectrum needs--both for commercial as well as government purposes--will not be met. The spectrum that will be cleared at the end of the DTV transition is considered to be highly valuable spectrum because of its particular technical properties. In all, the DTV transition will clear 108 megahertz (MHz) of spectrum, which is a fairly significant amount. In the 1997 Balanced Budget Act, the Congress directed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reallocate 24 MHz of the reclaimed spectrum to public safety uses. Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, there has been a greater sense of urgency to free spectrum for public safety purposes. The remaining returned spectrum will be auctioned for use in advanced wireless services, such as wireless high-speed Internet access. The return of the radiofrequency spectrum at the end of the transition will thus provide many benefits to society by easing the spectrum scarcity facing public safety first-responders, engendering economic growth and consumer value from spectrum redeployed to wireless services, and affording revenues to the federal government from the proceeds of a spectrum auction. Due to Congressional interest in the DTV transition, we testified before the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, Committee on Energy and Commerce, on May 26, 2005; February 17, 2005; and July 21, 2004, and on issues related to the DTV transition. Additionally, Congress asked us to report on the information Americans need to know about the DTV transition. As such, this report specifically focuses on information campaign issues that we have not previously discussed. We are providing (1) stakeholder views on Americans' knowledge of the DTV transition, (2) stakeholder views on how government and industry might most effectively communicate critical DTV information, and (3) information on efforts by Germany and the United Kingdom to inform their citizens about the DTV transitions taking place in those countries.

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