Today is DTV Day in Wilmington, NC

You may have heard that the nation is switching to digital television in February of next year. For one city, the switch has come early. As a first-in-the-nation pilot project, Wilmington, NC switches to DTV today.

Actually, DTV has been there (and here) all along. What's changed is that the analog program transmission stops today in Wilmington, and stops in February for the rest of the nation. When that happens you must have a DTV receiver to get over-the-air television programming.

The Wilmington experiment represents almost a best case scenario, so I don't anticipate too many problems. It's been the focus of intense local publicity, so everybody there is aware of it. I've found at outreach events that people in Austin are aware of the coming change, but are still confused as to what to do.

An AP news article today says:

Sales of the store's $59.99 converter boxes have been brisk, [Radio Shack employee Larry Pakowski] said.

"I can't give you a specific number, but I can tell you traffic has been pretty steady," he said.

It may pick up come noon Monday when viewers who get their signals with rabbit ears turn to their favorite shows and find this text crawling across the screen: "If you are viewing this message, this television set has not yet been upgraded to digital."

It also notes:

At a Wal-Mart Supercenter the night before the changeover, in the electronics department, a clock counted down the hours until the changeover. Beside it hung this sign: "Attention customers. We are out of converter boxes at this time until further notice. Sorry for the inconvenience."

This suggests that in spite of the massive publicity effort in Wilmington, people are leaving it to the last minute.

The problem with that is that the pool of converter box discount coupons is rapidly being depleted. Stragglers in Wilmington can still get the coupons (if they are willing to wait a couple weeks for the processing). By the time the change comes to Austin (and the rest of the nation), that option may no longer be available.

Given the low redemption rates on coupons, Congress and the FCC should reexamine whether the coupon program is really having the effect that was intended and whether the pool needs to be replenished

There also should be an investigation into the problem created by the early expiration times on the coupons. Come February, there may be a lot of people surprised to find that the coupon they ordered several months back is now unusable.

Read the full story here: Wilmington, NC readies for its digital close-up

Comments

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People are allways

People are allways late!
That's the way most people are..

It's funny. In Finland we changed to DTV maybe one year ago and sails of digital boxes grew just a couple of days before the analog program transmissions stoped. and of course tough sailsmen knew it would happen still the boxes were sold out and not all the people, who wanted to bye the box, could have it. This is a phenomenon. Probably in every country it will happen like this.