Counting down to the DTV transition

With the DTV transition now only a month away, you may be wondering how flawlessly the conversion will take place. If the test done in Wilmington, N.C. back in September ’08 is any indication, we will have phone lines flooded with calls about missing television stations. And while the calls from that particular city only ran in the hundreds, multiply that by the number of cities in the U.S. and you would say the FCC better have some extra phone operators that day.

The LA Times calculated back in Sept. ’08 that if only 0.5% of the country’s 112 million television households called on Feb. 17, it would amount to over 560,000 calls. In Los Angeles alone it would amount to approximately 28,000 calls.


It’s not that the public is not aware of the transition. I have met people who already have the converters and thought they needed to hook them up on the day of conversion. I’ve also met quite a few people who have the DTV Converter box coupons but for whatever reason never cashed them in. I guess it’s sort of like driving your car when you know something is wrong with it, but you drive it anyway until it breaks down.

Not everyone is looking forward to the conversion. While digital transmissions are far superior in quality, some folks in remote areas and even metro areas complain about constant dropouts. I’ve also received emails from readers who have expressed that during storms and high winds the digital signals are choppy and unwatchable. So you may ask — what is better — a snowy analog signal or chopped up digital signal? I wouldn’t want either so my answer would be “just spring for satellite service.”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m very excited about this transition. I’m excited about the improved image quality, multi-casting, and the opportunity for more local programming. Not to mention high-definition over-the-air broadcasts which have a great image quality.

But I can’t help but recall the old days of analog, when you could pick up TV signals from all over the place. I remember as a kid watching programs from other states, miles and miles away. Yeah they were snowy as hell, and my eyes would be buggin’ out from double and triple images. But just think, someday you can tell your grandkids you lived through the dark ages of television.

No matter what happens on Feb. 17, the digital conversion is a necessary transition that should have happened five years ago. This is the 21st century. It’s all about bandwidth. But I do think on that day we are in for a wild ride, or at least the media will make it seem that way.

For more information on the DTV Transition, visit www.dtv.gov.

Related Articles:
Getting HD Channels Over the Air
Current List of DTV Converters

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Jeff Chabot

Jeff Chabot

Jeff Chabot writes about technology, broadcasting, and digital entertainment. You can also find him on Gameverse, Gadget Review, and Google+.

4 Replies to “Counting down to the DTV transition”

  1. David says:

    Public Service Announcements have not addressed the issue in a forward concise manner. On the morning of the 18th, hundreds of thousands of people will awake to discover their TV cannot pick up signals and will have no idea why. I remain unaffected by the change, since I do not own a television and refuse to subject my brain to the mindless garbage on the airwaves. For emergencies I have a radio and it serves me just fine. People can and have lived without television, it’s not like they are being deprived of food or other essentials.

  2. Grey says:

    They should just give the converters out for free. The whole “coupon towards purchase” was just giving in to capitalism. If you notice, all the retailers upped the price on those stupid converters. So not only do they get the $40 from the gov, they get the markup as well.

  3. Jim says:

    I applied for a coupon the first day and was denied because I have a PO box! Then went through appeal, no luck there either. Lucky because we now find out there will be no digital signal in our area, in fact we will likely loose analog although the analog rebroadcastor station is still there, since the digital signals are weaker they may not be picked up by the rebroacasting station. This is a city of well over 100,000 people and most of our state is in a similar condition! Only the main cities in our state are going to have digital. Everyone else may lose all! No cable for most, and with mountain issues even satellite is questionable. Opps they did it again.

  4. john says:

    the reason some people are not prepared is because the media is not warning about the transition as a problem but instead is warning it as a option.what they need to do is talk about it on the major network news as a problem that has to be addressed so that people will understand that this is something that is going to happen and you have to be ready.only the local news talk about it and the major networks never talk about it.

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