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Ready or not, digital television is on the way in February
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Are you ready for Broadcast Digital Television? 


Congress mandated that over-the-air broadcast television stations convert to all-digital broadcasting by Feb. 17, 2009. 


The key phrase is "over-the-air." If you are connected to cable or use dishes, you are ready. The problem is that about 15 percent of House District 9 still use outside antennas or rabbit ears. If you are part of this 15 percent, on Feb. 17, 2009 your old "analog" TV will cease to provide you a picture unless you get a converter.


Newer TVs whose label has the word "digital" such as Integrated Digital Tuner, Digital Tuner Built-In, or some other indication of being a digital receiver should be OK.  If not, a digital converter box is needed to allow continued use of current TVs. These converters cost about $60. That is the bad news. The good news is that the federal government will give you a $40 coupon toward the purchase. 


Government issued coupons are available by visiting or by calling 1-888-DTV-2009.


Of course, you can always give yourself a new digital TV for Christmas or connect your analog TV to cable or a satellite dish. Remember, if you are already connected to cable or a satellite receiver, this changeover will not affect you.


Last Monday the OneGeorgia Authority held its annual board meeting at North Georgia College and State University. Over 400 folks from around the state were here to see and sample the treasures of the mountains we call home. 


Governor Perdue and the board recognized the Lumpkin County Development Authority as the most recent recipient of technology grants from the BRIDGE (Broadband Rural Initiative to Develop Georgia's Economy) Fund. 


Our BRIDGE grant of $192,000 will be used to assist in evaluating the feasibility and economic impact potential of extending fiber optic broadband from Forsyth County to Lumpkin, Dawson, White and Union counties.


The evaluation includes completion of Georgia Tech's TechSmart Program, as well as a detailed engineering and system design plan. The regional partnership believes that the "North Georgia Network" (NGN - pronounced "Engine") has the potential to create a new technology-based economy for the North Georgia Region. 


We expect this high speed "engine" to bring in high paying, high tech jobs for all of North Georgia. Initial activities will evaluate high speed connectivity, network redundancy and multiple carrier criteria deemed critical for existing and prospective technology-based companies. 


This is the first step in realizing our dream of becoming a fiber optic friendly community that will attract the next generation of jobs we need. Prospective businesses are already looking at communities in Georgia that can accommodate their fiber optic needs. As soon as we can build it, they will come.


One of my top priorities in the next Legislative Session is to help find the money to fund the phase 2 build out of our fiber optic network.


On Friday we had a joint meeting of the two House and two Senate committees which oversee energy and natural resources. We were there to listen to Dr. Randall Luthi, the Director of the Minerals Management Service, U.S. Department of the Interior.  He is also the federal official charged with permitting leases for offshore drilling.


Dr. Luthi discussed the benefits of offshore drilling for oil and natural gas to states such as Georgia. He showed charts, which displayed the history of energy independence of other nations compared to the United States.  


Luthi is the former Speaker of the Wyoming House of Representatives and understands what we as legislators are facing.


With oil prices dropping why are we looking at off-shore drilling for oil and gas now?  The simple answer is that our nation's economy is energy dependent.  Energy powers transportation, food production, national defense, homes -- the very essence of society depends on having a secure, reliable, affordable source of energy.


Dr. Luthi discussed the whole spectrum of energy sources -- from wind to biomass to nuclear; they must all be in the mix. 


However, it will take time to make a transition to these alternate sources of energy.  Our "energy bridge" during this transition will still depend on the development of coal, oil and gas.


Dr. Luthi summarized by pointing out that offshore production platforms have a remarkable safety record. Did you know that oil leaks into the ocean naturally?  According to the National Academies of Science, about "1,700 barrels of oil per day enters the marine environment off North America through natural seeps in the ocean floor." 


This is 150 times more than has been spilled from production activities.  Coastal states with producing federal offshore tracts within three miles of their state waters receive 27 percent of royalties generated in those areas. "Drill baby drill" can be done in a responsible manner to satisfy our environmental concerns and meet our economic and energy requirements.

Remember, the secret of good government is a well-informed electorate.


Let me know what you think. I can be reached at 689 N. Chestatee Street, Dahlonega, GA 30533, (706) 864-6589, e-mail 

  Or contact Gerald Lewy at (706) 344-7788. He'll know how to get your message to me.