Switch to Digital Television (DTV) Went Remarkably Well
By: Leslie Cauley, USA Today
NEW YORK — It's official: The USA is now a digital TV nation.
The switch to digital TV, or DTV, on Friday went off without any major hitches, the Federal Communications Commissionreported.
More than 900 full-power TV stations shut down their analog signals on Friday. Going forward, they will broadcast exclusively digital signals.
Digital signals offer better pictures and audio. The shift also frees up airwave capacity, so consumers can expect to get a lot more programming over time — all of it free.
The analog shutdown only affected TV households that received signals over the air, not via cable or satellite. About 20 million U.S. households receive signals in this fashion.
Acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps hailed the handling of the transition as a major success for the government, which has been planning the switch for more than a decade.
"For TV broadcasting, it was a final farewell to the Dinosaur Age and the dawn of the Digital Age," Copps said in a prepared statement.
While no meltdowns were reported, pockets of problems did crop up.
In cities with stations switching from UHF to VHF frequencies, the FCC noted, reception issues were fairly common.
Why: Users of converter boxes in these markets have to rescan — basically reprogram — so tuners can find new digital channels. (Channel locations shifted rather dramatically post-DTV.) Markets feeling the UHF/VHF effect included Chicago and Philadelphia.
The FCC said it would be watching those markets throughout this week.
By early afternoon on Saturday, the FCC said it had received 315,000 calls from consumers. That's about three times the volume from just one day earlier. By Sunday, calls had dribbled off, with only 60,000 calls received as of early afternoon.
FCC spokesman Rick Kaplan says many calls concerned garden-variety problems related to antennas and converter boxes. Those sorts of problems had been anticipated, he added.
The good news: "There were no dramatic moments," he says. Translation: Problems were mostly small, and easily handled.
Even though the DTV switch now is history, the government still is offering two $40 coupons per household for converter boxes. But you have to act quickly because the coupon program is ending on July 31.
For more information you can contact the FCC's hotline: 888-CALL-FCC or go to www.dtv.gov.