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February 12, 2009

More mud in the digital switchover waters

Posted: 05:06 PM ET
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The date for the switchover was February 17th, then was pushed back to June, but some stations will still be switching early.

Since we last chatted about the DTV switchover
there’s been some new developments –- the biggest of which being its postponement to June. Then nearly 500 stations told the FCC they want to go ahead and change to digital signals on the original February 17 switchover date. And now the FCC has rejected a quarter of those requests.

According to the latest TV Week article, the FCC is concerned with markets where all the major network affiliates wanted to switch early, leaving those unprepared for the change without news or emergency alerts.

So if you weren’t confused about the deadline before, there’s even more to muddy the waters now.

Your comments on my previous DTV post were very informative - especially the issue of digital signals not reaching as far as their analog counterparts - and I’m sure I’ll get even more new perspective on this issue from what you have to say today.

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Filed under: Politics • television


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Stanley Swanson   February 12th, 2009 5:59 pm ET

Nobody needs TV. So what's the big deal?


J M Maye   February 12th, 2009 6:32 pm ET

Give me a break! For over a year, I've been watching ads and streamers on all stations telling people about the change. If some people aren't ready now, they aren't watching TV anyway, so let's move ahead.


Josh   February 12th, 2009 6:45 pm ET

I think that the best course of action would be to require that one news station (such as a local ABC, NBC, or FOX affiliate) in each area be required to keep their analog signals transmitting until the June transition, but allow other stations to transition early. Seeing as how the FCC oversees the television stations, they would be able to organize a plan to have maximum transition with minimal effect on the users, if so many stations are ready to switch early.


C Duffy   February 12th, 2009 7:21 pm ET

The state of Hawaii has already switched over - nearly a month ago. Hasn't anyone looked at the results there to determine if any noticeable problems occurred for those viewers? If there has not been any real problem, then I wish the news media would please stop spreading fear, uncertainty, and doubt about the switch over.


raggedyann   February 12th, 2009 9:03 pm ET

Well, now I'm really confused. I use an antenna (no cable) by choice. I don't watch enough TV to justify the cost of cable. I have my little box all ready to go, but haven't hooked it up yet because some who did LOST one or two channels out of the 5 or 6 you get with an antenna. So, I figured I'd wait till everyone switched over.

Now what? What good does a delay do? the government has run out of those coupons (unless they are in the stimulus package – grin) and really, anyone who watches free TV has to know about this switch by now. It's all over free TV – I'll be glad when they make the switch to get rid of the ticker boxes at the bottom of the screen.

So, some will switch, some won't, boxes will work/won't work and we won't know why. A firm date was a much smarter idea.


A K   February 12th, 2009 9:25 pm ET

"Nobody needs TV. So what’s the big deal?"

Well, according to the FCC, apparently it is the only way to get emergency information, thus we just can't get rid of analog TV(for emergency reasons, of course)

I guess radios and telephones don't exist anymore?


Franko   February 12th, 2009 9:51 pm ET

Stanley Swanson is correct, distribution layer should be the Internet

HDTV modulation method is impressive, - 64 QAM, 256 QAM
Will it be bumped up to 1,024 QAM ? - what is the limit ?

I have watched, above the Artctic Circle, TV from Texas (long ways)
Billboard antenna, Ionoscatter ? - intermittent picture
How well does 256 QAM perform on Troposcatter ?


Andrew   February 12th, 2009 9:54 pm ET

Stanley, I will admit that no one NEEDS tv. But for a lot of people that is where they get their emergency alerts. For a lot of the elderly that is pretty much their only source of entertainment. That is a problem. If the government is going to mandate the change over, then it should be done in a way that is least confusing as possible. I'd say the government has, once again, messed that up completely. (Just like everything else they touch).


John   February 12th, 2009 9:54 pm ET

Delay was stupid, really, just as many will not switch in 4 months as if it were in Febuary, they have had years, couple months will no make any difference.


Chuck White   February 12th, 2009 10:57 pm ET

I'm a 55 year old electrical engineer and have been playing with radio since my geeky youth. I even have cable so this digital conversion is doubly a non-event for me. But my area is home to many elderly people living in signal-fringe rural environments. (see: antenna pre-amp) These are not uneducated, impoverished people. Those using TV antennas have dutifully bought their converter boxes or new TV's. What messes them up is trying to decipher the instruction manuals cross-translated from Taiwanese. They are well-read and busy people but not computer literate, not trained to menus, and not antenna savvy. I've been assisting several in getting set up, getting antenna bearings, explaining how a weak digital signal looks vs a weak analog signal. They're delighted with the results. I have to wonder, though, how many poor souls are trying to grope through this unassisted, either due to lack of available help or simply an unwillingness to be considered incompetent in yet another new technology. In Europe they did this thing gradually and with more help available. What I foresee is that many of the unprepared in February will still be unprepared in June.


Kathygnome   February 12th, 2009 11:29 pm ET

They need to let it go black. If they haven't already, they're not going to switch until they have to. If we keep waiting our great grandchildren will die of old age before we do it.


Gagnet126   February 13th, 2009 2:20 am ET

Here in Rhode Island everything is switching as of Feb. 17th. They have somehow determined that the great protion of the houses are ready to go and that those that aren't probably wouldn't be come June anyway.
I personally have my box and a brand new antenna. Unfortunately and have already lost half the over the air stations that I used to get due to "weak signals".


Lil Willy   February 13th, 2009 5:37 am ET

If someone didn't prepare in two years, how are they going to be ready in five months?


John S   February 13th, 2009 6:08 am ET

If anybody can mess something up its our government. Actually some Americans are not much better. I cannot believe anyone would complain about having to buy a $40 converter. It was our governments fault to even come up with these coupons. But we should had stuck to a date and never changed it. Their has been plenty of time for everyone to find out what they need . I think these stations ought to protest and shut down anyway. What's the FCC going to do? Make them shut down? Someone has to be firm and its not going to be the govenrment or the FCC. This changeover should have been given a date of change and let the public and television station deal with it!


Colin   February 13th, 2009 7:16 am ET

Let em switch. Consumers have been warned for the last 2 years the change was going to happen. If TV viewers aren't ready, then let it be a lesson in what happens when you procrastinate, and it's a shame we have to reward the ill-prepared by giving them more time, and punish TV stations by making them have to shell out more money to keep the signal running.

OK, so there's not enough money for more coupons, I get that. but if people had requested them earlier, instead of at the last minute, then we'd have known a long time ago we needed more. We'd have it by now an extension would not have been neccessary.

Plenty of ads have made it clear: If you don't get a converter box, you will lose your signal! How much clearer does it need to be and how many times does it have to be said until we're ready to do this?


Mike Branch   February 13th, 2009 7:20 am ET

It looks to me like we're assuming that a TV is a necessity for people, on the same scale as food and water.

It's hard to see where entertainment is so critical. As for emergency messages, don't those also come through the radio?


Richard   February 13th, 2009 8:04 am ET

"...where all the major network affiliates wanted to switch early, leaving those unprepared for the change without news or emergency alerts."

You don't need a t.v. to get news or emergency alerts.


Greg   February 13th, 2009 8:23 am ET

I hope in June they delay it again for another 6 months, because when this switch is made I will be out of signal range. I will be going from 8 to 2 channels because of this federally mandated garbage. As it is now, my analog gets a better picture than the digital.


Sue B.   February 13th, 2009 8:37 am ET

I got two cards – two tv sets. Unfortunately the cards had a time limit, which was not advertised. I got the cards in the mail, checked them, but not closely enough, and put them away until I could afford the approximately $20.00 difference that I would have to kick in. By that time the cards were past the expiration date. There should not have been an expiration date, or the expiration date should have been Feb 17. Either way I could have used the cards when I had the finances. Now I have two worthless cards. The govt should take the expiration dates off the cards, then I could get the boxes I will need to us the TV. It will be the radio from then on. Thanks to my government who is working for me. HaHaHa!


Jerry Hogan   February 13th, 2009 9:35 am ET

No one has explained to me why the analog and digital signal could not be broadcast at the same time.
Also in this job market why are there not techies hooking these box;s up for say twenty bucks a pop,old farts like me would pay that in a second.


P McG   February 13th, 2009 10:05 am ET

Analog and digital can be simulcast (as is happening now with many stations), but having both is a BIG waste of energy, which we can ill afford. Digital is the way to go.


Peter in NYC   February 13th, 2009 10:22 am ET

Tthe government should have ditched the funding for PBS, and not bothered with these silly boxes. They should have instead provided consumers with discounted cable boxes instead.

The point of "over the air" is so silly anyway. With cable TV providing endless channels it would be better to offer that to viewers than the liberal nonsense of PBS.


Mike C   February 13th, 2009 10:29 am ET

For all those folks who are listening...

The broadcasters (All) have been broadcasting digital for some time as well as their analog signal. If you have a box or DTV, you can already receiv3e the digital signal. That is provided you are close enough to receive it.
Issues that most will see are loss of signal related. Digital is either on or off. No fuzzy or static pictures that you would get with analog when you lived on the fringe. Also, do most people understand that digital broadcasts are highly directional and can be blocked by hills, trees, buildings, etc that the good ole analog signal would bounce off of or pass through. Can one say antenna rotor and high gain antenna?
My place is in the remote and with antenna I currently get 3 stations, none of which come in clear. It will cost me over $200 to purchase and installl an acceptable antenna/rotor that will allow me to receive a signal.
As far as radio goes for emergency info, quite a few stations today don't do much for news or local events. Except for the mandated emergency broadcast system, which by the way informs me to tune to my local TV station for details, how will one get alerts and info?


Franko   February 13th, 2009 10:31 am ET

HDTV tuner, USB and computer cards are available
Best way to go - record what you like to your hard drive
And if they change the standards to Mepeg 4 - software upgrade


Larryp   February 13th, 2009 10:32 am ET

The geek squad could probably do it (out of best buy), but honestly, the antenna goes to the box, a cable goes from the box to the tv, and you plug the box in. Set the tv to channel 3 or 4, turn on the box and the menus will walk you thru the set up. buy my plane ticket, and furnish lunch and i'll do it for free


Tommyr   February 13th, 2009 10:50 am ET

We've been bombarded DAILY by "the switch is coming" ads for 2 years, how can anyone STILL not be ready for this???

Are these same people still riding horses and buggies and using out houses?


vince   February 13th, 2009 11:35 am ET

I think this has been really confusing for most since the beginning, starting with the term "converter box". They should have been called what they are from the start, "digital tuners". Once I explained that fact to my mom, it's been no problem. At first, she kept changing the channel on the TV and then would wonder why she lost the picture, now that she knows to leave the TV on the video input and change it on the tuner box, it's all good.


Rick   February 13th, 2009 11:49 am ET

I wonder if it would had been easier if, instead of coupons, the gov't just said you can deduct $40 off each box on your tax return...


Christy   February 13th, 2009 12:32 pm ET

Here is another case of the government babying us Americans. I mean if you have not prepared in the last 2 years, then you deserve to be without TV! When are people going to start taking responsibility for themselves. Don't use the argumet that it is the only way "some" people get emergency alerts, because that is just crap. "Some" people still don't even have a tv and I didn't see the government offerring them coupons to buy one.


TomC   February 13th, 2009 12:35 pm ET

1 word: RADIO – let the switch begin!


Maineiac   February 13th, 2009 1:34 pm ET

People are just realizing the “cliff effect” of the digital transmitters and receivers. They are NOT as strong as analog, and it’s all or nothing- you get reception, or you don’t. I live in Kennebec County, Maine in the “dead zone” between the Portland and Bangor transmitters. Using a high-end steerable antenna, I got the 3 major networks from Portland, FOX from Portland and PBS just fine in analog. Trying digital, I only picked up the CBS affiliate and FOX from Portland, and PBS from Augusta. After plunking down 60 bucks for an antenna amplifier, I was able to add the digital signal from Portland’s NBC affiliate, but still cannot pick up the signal from Portland’s ABC affiliate station.

I refuse to knuckle under to cable’s complete monopoly, and want nothing to do with cable. But for a lot of people who were previously getting reception without plunking down 55 bucks a month, cable will become the ONLY option. The cable companies are the big winners in this latest technological “improvement”.


Eileen   February 13th, 2009 4:08 pm ET

Here in Delaware our CBS station was ready to go Feb. 17th, but was forced by the FCC to wait. I don't care.. Just PLEASE stop talking about it. If they continue with the none stop commercials and "specials" to explain to people AGAIN they they may need a converter box, I'm going to scream!!! So, here is my suggestion... Set up an 800 number for the lost and technologically challenged, and leave the rest of us alone...


mdegge   February 13th, 2009 11:16 pm ET

I'm sorry but people have had more than enough time to prepare for this. There should not be a delay in switching. Just get it over with already. This isn't a problem of not having enough converter boxes, its a problem of not having enough coupons. Once the switch happens people will go out and buy the boxes regardless so just do it already.

If they are that worried about running out of coupons then just drop the price of the boxes themselves!


Franky   February 14th, 2009 12:32 am ET

That's cool...the digital box is like the phone replacing mail but we know the mail is around. Plus, you seen how much stamps cost now? Those sons of...


Franko   February 14th, 2009 5:09 am ET

Read; " Aliens Can Watch `I Love Lucy "
They are going to be angry, when forced to switch to new converters


Andy W.   February 14th, 2009 11:30 am ET

Actually, a staggered transition might be the best solution. Anyone who hasn't prepared by now won't do so until channels start going dark.


D   February 14th, 2009 4:14 pm ET

The FCC should require all television stations to stream its newscasts live online. Our CBS affiliate, KGMB9 in Honolulu, does exactly that for it's 5 and 6 p.m. broadcasts, as well as the Evening News at 5:30 p.m.

Even though I only have an analog TV in the office, at least I have access to the TV news via the internet.

Folks might be in a situation where they have no TV, but have an internet connection to live news and or emergency weather broadcasts should it be necessary.


hawaii guy   February 14th, 2009 11:00 pm ET

so, i see someone has noticed that hawaii has already completed the switch and has asked if there are any problems. The primary answer to that question is no, there have been no problems, but there is a big reason for that. Hawaii is an island state, we are isolated and for that reason we are the guinea pigs for a lot of new technologies. When cable modem first came out, we were the first to have it, and thus by the time the continental states got it we were already saturated with broadband cable equipped homes. i remember going to visit a friend in california and at that point they didn't even know what cable modem was. Our homes here have had digital cable for years, i don't know one person who doesn't at least have basic cable in hawaii, and for that reason when hawaii made the switch, no one noticed. Search our local news agencies, there were no stories of anyone having problems, there were no callers calling to say they didn't have cable or tv signals, nothing. That is why hawaii went first, that is why hawaii is always the guinea pigs for new technologies, that is why it cost so much to live here (well not really but wouldn't that be a good reason).


paman   February 15th, 2009 2:18 pm ET

LET THE LAWSUITS BEGIN!!!!!!! what about all the money stations dumped into getting ready? Is the government gonna give that back like they did to wall street? What about companies that purchased the analog wave lengths during the last FCC auction? Why not have some backbone and stick to your guns Washington. You set the date now follow thru. Its like the parent saying you cant watch tv till you finish your veggies but then you let them walk away with the veggies still on the plate. Maybe Washington should stick to their word. Well if their word is even worth anything anymore.


duncan   February 15th, 2009 5:25 pm ET

The FCC should take some of the freed up frequencies and and set up a dedicated nation wide emergency broadcast network similar to NOAA weather radio . Part of reason for the digital switch- over was a recommendation by the 9-11 commission to improve emergency communications.


Franko   February 15th, 2009 11:25 pm ET

Time to shop for a USB plugin tuner for my computer
To see how well, the often fading, analog reception,
Performs under Digital Forward Error Correction, 256 QAM

Anyone have experience with 256 QAM over 100 km Scatter ?


Franko   February 15th, 2009 11:34 pm ET

Your FaceBook will be referenced, psychological potential analized
Correlated with known Terrorists, before you are allowed
Make shure you remember every friend, consistent with RFID logging


Mark   February 16th, 2009 1:23 am ET

"The state of Hawaii has already switched over — nearly a month ago. Hasn’t anyone looked at the results there to determine if any noticeable problems occurred for those viewers? If there has not been any real problem, then I wish the news media would please stop spreading fear, uncertainty, and doubt about the switch over."

your on a tiny island of course your not going to have any issues about the range of the signals......


Ward Whitley   February 16th, 2009 4:14 pm ET

I have my boxes and have hooked them up. What really bothers me is sound quality. It is terrible. As far as picture goes, now you get it or you do not. Some stations are now . NO in between. I also purchased a 720P Digital TV and it has same reception as boxes. This whole exercise has cost consumers a bundle of money for less quality as far as I am concerned. I am not about to pay the cable tax for TV demanded by those services. Telephone and its taxes are bad enough.


Max M   February 16th, 2009 5:24 pm ET

I know plenty of folks who have cable and will continue to have cable who have taken advantage of the coupons for the digital converter box. It seems greedy to me that there are poor and elderly people who have neither cable nor converter boxes.


Franko   February 17th, 2009 6:11 am ET

HDTV is for cities, multipath from buildings, does not produce ghosting
Why steal, unnecessarily, frequencies from the old TV ?
Could have put HDTV on unused channels
Leave something for the countryside, imperfect Tv is better than none at all


Scott S.   February 18th, 2009 5:43 pm ET

Seriously, they have been warning for years on this.

The biggest complainers are the people that expect the government to take care of them. Take some personal responsibility and take care of yourselves.


Keith   February 18th, 2009 6:20 pm ET

I wonder what those who buy advertising on over the air TV stations think about the idea that the digital signals will reach a smaller number of people.


Franko   February 19th, 2009 1:49 pm ET

Money Changers have moved on
The poor, the elderly, the rural people
Just cannot afford to invest in high priced legal lobbyists


Melvin Abdullah   April 14th, 2013 3:43 am ET

Now Americans can reduce the amount of debt that they owe by as much as 60% in many cases to get rid of the debts they have accumulated in the past. Since the businesses know what it is like to need financial help, they are extending this to the American public in the form of federal help for credit card debt."

My own blog site
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