Thursday, June 11, 2009

Digital TV switch is at midnight tomorrow night

The switch from analog to digital television airwaves will arrive at midnight tomorrow night, after being postponed by Congress. Across the nation, millions are still not ready for the switch, including many in rural areas. “We predict that for many households this will be six months to a year before this gets sorted out,” Mike Didow of DTV Across America told Julie Harker of Brownfield.

Congress first planned the conversion to digital signals in 2006, but the switch was pushed back to Feb. 17 of this year to manage consumer confusion and offer equipment. Older analog TV sets that rely on antennas need a converter box for the switch, which costs $50 to $80. But two weeks before Feb. 17, the $1.5 billion set aside for $40-off coupons for the boxes ran out and Congress again postponed the switch back to June 12.

Didow said the Federal Communications Commission has “under-appreciated” the issues surrounding antennas used by many rural viewers, incorrectly assuming that the converter box would be the biggest rural need, and that “Every household would have an outdoor antenna mounted 30 feet off the ground.” He said those antennas must be unobstructed by trees or foliage. (Read more)

Kim Hart reports for The Washington Post that the transition overseen by the government was poorly managed and consumers were not clearly informed about the cost and effort involved in the switch. For example, although TV sets with digital tuners will receive broadcasts, experts are now saying that antennas may need to be adjusted or replaced with more powerful ones at an additional cost.

David Cooker and Tiffany Hsu report for the Los Angeles Times that buying a digital TV can run at least several hundred dollars, and a subscription to cable or satellite services generally costs $45 or more per month. Such issues have left experts estimating that nearly 3 million people nationwide will wake up to useless TV screens Saturday. Hart writes, "Those most at risk of losing programming -- seniors, non-English speakers, low-income viewers and rural residents -- are among the more than 14 million households that rely heavily on over-the-air signals to receive critical public-safety alerts, news and weather reports."

1 comment:

grasshopper said...

i'm glad that the switch is finally happening... it seems like they've been talking about it for years now