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NTIA announces DTV transition initiatives

September 26th, 2007

Last week, Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.) called for a formalized public-private partnership to promote the digital TV transition. Add him to the list of lawmakers suggesting the federal government isn’t doing enough to ensure a successful DTV switchover in 2009. But even in the absence of the kind of task force Kohl’s bill would mandate, coordinated public and private efforts to inform Americans about digital TV are moving forward.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s DTV meeting and expo in Washington yesterday drew more than 500 participants, according to NTIA spokesman Todd Sedmak. The Commerce Department agency outlined several initiatives, including:

• The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Aging (AoA) is working with NTIA on creative ways to distribute Coupon Program information to two million seniors served by the Home Delivered Meals Program and exploring existing avenues, such as the Elder Care Locator, the 800 number, radio programs, and newsletters to inform seniors in all 50 states and territories about the Coupon Program;

• The Veterans Administration (VA) will work with NTIA to ensure that digital transition information and Coupon Program applications are available in 155 VA hospitals and 1,000 clinics, and the VA will inform 240,000 VA employees; 1 million VA volunteers; and more than 1 million veterans not served by the VA about the transition;

• The 225,000 members of the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) in nearly 7,000 chapters in 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico will partner with Best Buy Co., Inc., along with its Best Buy and Geek Squad brands, to help educate the elderly, rural residents and others about the Coupon Program.

That last point would seem to suggest that Best Buy will participate in the government’s DTV converter box coupon program. I hope Geek Squad will offer installation help to consumers who need it—hands-on, in-home help remains a crucial missing piece of DTV transition efforts to date.

People can debate whether the government and the television industry are doing enough to accomplish a seamless DTV cutover, but the partnerships already developing are cause for optimism.

Today it’s the FCC’s turn to talk about digital TV consumer-information plans at a workshop at its Washington headquarters.

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