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Dutch TV goes digital

Today, the Netherlands rendered "rabbit ears" extinct, becoming the first country in the world to eliminate analog television signals altogether and switch to digital. But it was a largely silent shift, according to a report from the Associated Press, because 94 percent of the Netherlands' 16 million residents already subscribed to cable TV and likely didn't even notice.

The Dutch government has handed the bandwidth freed up by the lack of analog TV over to Royal KPN NV, a formerly state-owned corporation that had a telecommunications monopoly over the country, for use in digital broadcasting. In return, Royal KPN, which now competes with other digital cable companies in the Netherlands, has footed the bill for the construction of digital cable masts and has agreed to offer a number of government-sponsored and public-broadcast channels free of charge.

There are a handful of other countries aiming to pull the plug on analog TV soon: Belgium and some Scandinavian nations hope to do so next year, and Japan has set the date for 2011. The U.S. has 2009 penciled in, but with 21 million households still relying on over-the-air TV signals, there could be a few roadblocks.