By Kathi Bliss
In television markets across the United States, broadcasters are preparing for the looming switchover to digital broadcasting. With only three weeks left until the long-discussed turnover, customers in many markets are still unprepared for the conversion, which may leave customers without local television.
In an effort to remind customers about the looming change, many broadcasters, including some in the Austin area, have participated in “soft tests,” which simulates some of what analog-only customers might experience when the digital transition takes place on June 12. Lockhart-area customers may have noticed interruptions in service or poor service on channels received through means other than digital cable or satellite service.
In addition, some programming, such as the City of Lockhart’s service-driven station, Time Warner Cable Channel 10, maybe altogether unavailable to customers who have not prepared for the digital transition.
“The soft test is a wake-up call to consumers telling them that the time to get ready for the DTV transition is now,” said Michael Copps, acting chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). “We don’t want anyone to be left without the news, information and entertainment they need and enjoy. If you’re having trouble getting ready, you can get help in your community right now, or even in your home by calling (800) CALL-FCC.”
According to estimates released by the FCC last week, an estimated 2.9 percent of U.S. households are still unprepared for the digital television transition.
In the few weeks remaining before the June 12 deadline, the FCC has stepped up efforts to help customers prepare for the end of analog broadcasting.
In Lockhart, leaders are trying to help residents prepare by making information available through the city’s website, www.lockhart-tx.org. Because many area residents still rely on basic cable or, in some cases external antennae, for their programming, Lockhart Mayor James “Jimmy” Bertram has said on several occasions that it is important for city leadership to do whatever they can to help residents prepare. Among those preparations, Bertram has spent several months helping city residents prepare with information and assistance in obtaining vouchers for the equipment necessary to make the transition seamlessly.
On June 12, all full-power television stations in the United States will stop analog broadcast service and transmit only digital signals. While many consumers who subscribe to pay television services will not be affected by the transition, those who do not subscribe, or who have older, analog televisions will need to attach converters to their televisions in order to continue receiving programming.
Digital transmission, which has been required by the Federal government, should not be confused with “high definition television,” a technology that has recently gained in popularity with many television manufacturers and pay television service providers.
Customers do not need to purchase high-definition televisions in order to continue receiving programming.
However, Copps said, many customers will notice an improvement in picture clarity and sound, along with additional channels and programs after the transition is complete on June 12. Further, he said, the transition will help to clear airwaves for first-responder radio service, one of the key reasons the transition has been mandated by the government.
For more information or to make sure you are prepared for the DTV conversion, contact your television provider, the FCC or visit www.dtv.gov.