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Consumers Are Clueless About DTV Transition
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January 30, 2008 | by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
“Consumer Reports” says that 74 percent of survey respondents know that the transition is coming, but aren’t quite sure what that means.
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Posted by J Kessler  on  01/31  at  12:25 PM

Why don’t any of these stories discuss the plight of those rural folks who live in fringe areas and currently receive marginal but watchable analog TV? These people may not have access to cable, in quite a few cases satellite is unavailable due to hills and trees. Even if cable or satellite was technically available, poor folks may not be able to afford to get them.

These folks will simply lose all access to television programming when the switch is made. I expect there to be quite a lot of howling in a few months.

Posted by Bigbrain28  on  01/31  at  03:34 PM

That is incorrect.

When the switch occurs those rural folk will have their $40 coupon to buy/order a converter box that will, in fact, capture digital OTA signals and display them on their analog tv’s. These folks will also benefit in that the DTV signal will be stronger and they will enjoy a better and fuller set of channels to watch.

I used to get nearly 20 DTV channels on my DTV STB via a aerial on my roof that never pulled in any VHF/UHF signals. This was in a “rural” area about 50mi from the areas of broadcast. In fact my father still uses this STB to watch HD sports via his 25yr old aerial and my 6yr old HDTV.

Posted by J Kessler  on  01/31  at  03:49 PM

Nope, I’m correct. Where I live for instance I can receive a ghosty but very watchable channel 12 from our local CBS affiliate. The same station broadcasts a digital feed on channel 7 which is not receivable here. Our other local stations have nice high power analog UHF signals though I can’t get them with an where I live antenna. The same stations are broadcasting with a lower power VHF digital signal that barely makes it out of town.

A really good example is our local ABC affiliate. My cable company provides a nice clean analog version of their signal, but is unable to provide a reliable digital signal because their antenna farm at their head end is in a digital fringe area.

The problem with digital is that you either get a perfect picture or an unwatchable signal with tiling and audio dropouts - or worse.

So, once again, folks who must watch TV in fringe areas with an antenna are likely to be cut off after the transition.

Posted by Bigbrain28  on  01/31  at  04:14 PM

Well that sucks for you, but I maintain that in general, and surely after the transition, DTV signals will travel farther since that is all the broadcasting towers will be sending.

Perhaps your local affiliates are just not pumping it out the way they do in my area. At any rate I have to believe that after the transition (by law?) the serviced area would have to at least equal the current analog coverage including the now “fringe” areas.

While I sympathize with your situation, I think there has been little discussion about it because it really wouldn’t reach a majority of those who need to hear it from sources such as these (forums/news sites). You may very well be the rare exception to that.

Posted by Jeff  on  01/31  at  05:00 PM

Where’s the converter boxes at Wal-Mart?  I haven’t seen any yet, or even heard that they are going to get any.  I think the government screwed the rural folks again.

Posted by J Kessler  on  01/31  at  05:18 PM

If you live in flat lands or near a big city with mega power stations you will be fine. However I live in rural mountainous upstate New York. Fortunately I can now get cable so I’m fine - with the exception of my ABC affiliate, but there are a lot of folks living in valleys 20, 30 or more miles from the TV transmitters and they only get marginal analog signals.

I have a feeling that more people than we realize are going to find that digital is not as forgiving as analog was.

Just plug in various zip codes into antenna web to see what happens.

FYI - the problem I see most often is you get a perfect picture and sound, but once or twice a minute the picture breaks up and the sound drops out. Very annoying. I just watched last night’s lost and it’s very frustrating to have the sound vanish during a key piece of dialog.

Posted by Bigbrain28  on  01/31  at  06:08 PM

J Kessler,

Firstly, I’m Jealous! How did you get Lost on Wednesday? I don’t get it until tonight (Thursday 1/24)! And I do sympathize, I too had occasional drop outs, not all that frequent, but always when it hurt the most. And Im in Florida, pretty flat here.

Jeff,

Early on STB’s were VERY expensive (like $499) and recently they have disappeared, due to the fact that all new TV’s have Digital tuners built-in. The converter boxes your expecting will be a bit different than the first/second gen STB’s and will be mass-produced, probably quite inexpensively.

No doubt the retailers will wait until the very last possible NEW TV can be sold (to replace those old analog sets) before they even offer the new STB’s for sale (imho). I’m also betting the mad dash to gobble up boxes will result in a, albeit artificially induced, shortage which will of course also result in increased new TV sales.

Mark my words, the transition will not go smoothly for a great number of Americans.

Posted by Rachel Cericola  on  01/31  at  06:29 PM

Bigbrain28: ABC aired last season’s finale of “Lost” on Wednesday night… you didn’t miss anything!

Posted by J Kessler  on  01/31  at  09:09 PM

> Firstly, I’m Jealous! How did you get Lost on Wednesday?

It was an annotated version of last season’s final show. It was interesting in that the captions provided a number of clues and pointed out the Easter Eggs.

Posted by hereyago  on  02/02  at  01:11 PM

Digi converters are at wally world…


http://www.walmart.com/catalog/product.do?product_id=8343230

49.99 RCA

Posted by rodney roush  on  02/24  at  09:09 AM

you talk about what the box you need, but no one is telling us abou ant to use

Posted by Bigbrain28  on  02/24  at  03:41 PM

Rodney,

The digital signals will be picked up by standard rabbit ears or roof top antenna, depending on your distance from the source (broadcast). If you get decent signal now the same antenna will *probably* work fine for HDTV transmissions. In my experience the idea of getting specialized HDTV antennas is a misleading, and unnecessary expense, as a standard terrestrial UHF/VHF antenna is the same animal.

Posted by Emilie Hook  on  05/14  at  07:24 PM

The following references an article comment thread found on the website ElectronicHouse.com:
http://www.electronichouse.com/article/comments/consumers_are_clueless_about_dtv_transition
Regarding the comments made in response to the January 30, 2008 article by Rachel Cericola entitled “Retailers Comments: ‘Consumers Are Clueless About DTV Transition’ ”
The level of ignorance and arrogance suggested by the responses to J Kessler’s comments (by people who claim to be tech savvy) is appalling!
J Kessler is absolutely correct!  Thank god there is at least one intelligent, informed person out there who has recognized the dirty little secret of the “DTV Revolution”:  Our right to free broadcast television has been surreptitiously taken away.
J Kessler’s comments are dead-on accurate.  She states:  “Why don’t any of these stories discuss the plight of those rural folks who live in fringe areas and currently receive marginal but watchable analog TV? These people may not have access to cable, in quite a few cases satellite is unavailable due to hills and trees. Even if cable or satellite was technically available, poor folks may not be able to afford to get them. These folks will simply lose all access to television programming when the switch is made.”
Here is my response:  DTV broadcast signals (meaning antennae, a.k.a over the air) will only travel 30 miles by line of sight vs. up to 200 miles for analog.  And if the viewing area is mountainous, rural or remote, digital signals are unable to transmit even a fraction of that distance.  Apparently people living in urban, metropolitan areas don’t believe it, but a significant number of people still receive their television over the air via antennae, especially in rural, remote, mountainous areas.  These also happen to be areas where emergency, weather and road condition info is the most critical information provided by television, and which will no longer be available after February 2009.
I live 50 miles east of Sacramento, CA in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.  We have a local independent phone company (AT&T;does not serve this area), and we do not have cable available.  We have a top of the line Philips antennae with a rotator placed high in a tree on our property (this is the usual and customary for almost all folks who live in these types of areas).  We can receive all the major broadcast TV stations from Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose.
We have already applied for, received and used out converter box coupons, only to discover that we will be unable to receive over the air DTV due to distance and topography. 
So our only option is to subscribe to a digital satellite TV service for a minimum of $55.00/mo.  With some creative budgeting, we might be able to afford this, but I can tell you unequivocally, many of our neighbors cannot.
The fact is, a converter box will not work for anyone living more that 30 miles away from a digital broadcast point of origin.  Why do none of the public service notifications, distributed by industry or government address this issue?  And why won’t anyone investigate this monumental oversight?

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