Two industries received a huge boost today when they agreed on a single standard for digital television receivers.
The deal between cable operators and television manufacturers should accelerate the rollout of high-definition, cable-ready digital TV sets, jump-starting a process that has been bogged down for months.
High-definition TV, or HDTV, provides a much sharper picture than U.S. consumers are used to -- five times the resolution of an analog signal. Digital signals are available now, but only through a set-top box. The FCC has ordered in-set digital receivers to be available in all new TVs by 2007.
Consumers will benefit as well, because HDTV provides more than just a sharp picture. The digital medium will allow stations to broadcast several channels simultaneously, and users will have access to other data carried with the signal.
Best of all, the new sets -- which may not be available for quite some time -- won't be much more expensive than today's TVs. One study predicts the digital tuners may add as little as $16 to the cost of lower-end sets.
Finally, we should note that the agreement won't take effect without the FCC's approval. But even though there may be some opposition from satellite companies, it seems a digital standard has finally arrived.