Sat, Jun 13, 2009 - Page 7 News List

Hundreds of thousands of households unprepared for end to analog TV in US

AP , NEW YORK

A man asks questions about digital TV converter boxes at a Best Buy store in New York on Thursday, one day before the US switched to digital broadcasts.

PHOTO: EPA

TV stations across the US were scheduled to cut their analog signals yesterday, ending a six-decade era for the technology and likely stranding more than 1 million unprepared homes without TV service.

Stations were to make the switch at different hours. The US Federal Communications Commission put 4,000 operators on standby for calls from confused viewers, and set up demonstration centers in several cities. Volunteer groups and local government agencies were helping elderly viewers set up converters that keep older TVs functioning.

A survey sponsored by broadcasters showed that Americans are well aware of the analog shutdown, thanks to a yearlong barrage of TV ads. But not everyone was sure exactly what it means, or what needs to be done to tune in to digital TV.

Any sets hooked up to cable or satellite feeds are unaffected.

Newer, digital TVs that get broadcasts through antennas — and older sets hooked up to converter boxes — should be fine, but they will need to be set to “re-scan” the airwaves, to find stations that moved to new frequencies yesterday.

The shutdown of analog channels frees up the airwaves for modern applications like wireless broadband and TV services for cellphones. It was originally scheduled for Feb. 17, but the government’s fund for US$40 converter box coupons ran out of money in early January, prompting the incoming Obama administration to push for a delay. The converter box program got additional funding in the national stimulus package.

Research firm SmithGeiger LLC said on Thursday that about 2.2 million households were still unprepared as of last week. Low-power analog stations and rural relay stations will still be available in some areas. And about 100 full-power stations will keep an analog “night light” on for a few weeks, to tell viewers of the need to switch.

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