The government announced Thursday plans to test broadcasting terrestrial digital television programs over the Internet with fiber-optic cable networks starting this fall.

The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry hopes to introduce the service in 2006. The service, which aims to broadcast TV programs at the same time as they are shown on regular television, particularly benefits viewers who live in areas that terrestrial digital TV signals cannot reach.

Terrestrial digital broadcasting was launched in late 2003 in parts of Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya. The government hopes to stop analog broadcasting by July 2011.

The development of a nationwide infrastructure for terrestrial digital TV broadcasting services is expected to cost massive amounts money and take a long time to introduce, so some rural regions could be left without any TV services when the plug is pulled on the present analog system.

Government officials said the ministry hopes to take advantage of the Internet, fiber-optic cable networks and satellite broadcasting to reach isolated regions.

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