The Switch to Digital TV, 24 Hours and Counting: Are We Ready?


Days, Hours... on Friday the U.S. broadcast television industry goes "digital". Make a mental note to check on your neighbors and family. One survey this week said that 2 million homes are still not prepared for the switch.

TV reception is not a luxury. If you are reading this article, you are likely tech savvy. This will be a day to be generous with your skills.

Not everyone is pleased with the transition's efficiency. "This is a $650 million mistake," said Rep. Joe L. Barton (R-Tex.), who was an opponent of transition postponement. If the transition program uses all of the money, "they've managed to spend $1,000 per household for a device that costs $50."

Digital TV is intended to give our TV broadcast system a needed update. Digital technology results in higher quality reception, and is more efficient in the use of RF spectrum. With increased efficiency, more channels can be broadcast, and Rf spectrum can be used for other services, such as wireless broadband and public safety communications.

TV stations, in conjunction with the Federal Communications Commission have conducted several 5 minute interuptions of the legacy analog signal. These tests allow viewers to identify their readiness status for the transition, and publicize the upcoming event.

The last "soft test" was on May 21, and resulted in over 55,000 calls to the FCC's hotline. Just over half of the calls were requests for information for the agency's coupon subsidy program.

"It was a wake-up call for consumers who are unprepared, alerting them to the fact that they need to take the necessary steps before the June 12 DTV transition." said acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps.

  • The new deadline is now
    less than 20 days away,
    but will we be ready on June 12?

  • The answer depends on one's perspective. If we wait until 100% of consumers have completed their preparations, we might as well cancel the plan. It will never happen. However, if we set our perspective realistically, the country as a whole is well prepared.

    In January, according to research firm Nielsen, 6.5 million U.S. households were unprepared for the switch to digital television, still receiving only analog signals over antennas. Now the number of households said to be unprepared has been cut nearly in half, to about 3.5 million (approximately 3 percent of households).

    Approximately one-third of full-power TV broadcast stations are already completely transitioned, and more will do so soon. In total, about 45% of TV stations will have already switched to digital-only broadcasting before June 12.

    The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is again sending out analog converter set-top box discount coupons. The NTIA will even exchange expired coupons. To date, 26 million coupons have been redeemed.

    There is concern about the demand for the converter boxes needed might exceed supply. But according to Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), "Our survey data suggest that manufacturers and retailers will likely meet consumer demand for converter boxes and antenna through the end of the transition".

    Most Americans are aware of the switch, said Anne Elliott, vice president of communications at Nielsen. "At this point, I think it would be hard to imagine that anybody who watches television has not heard of this transition." But "there are always folks who buy presents on Christmas Eve and people who line up at the post office on April 15" to file their taxes.

    0 Discussion: