The folks over at CNET caught New York’s two-minute analog-shut-off test on video yesterday. Side by side it shows one digital television broadcast behaving as normal, while an analog source displays color bars and a text crawl advising viewers of the upcoming DTV transition.
I strongly support reminders of our impending D-Day, but I’m not feeling optimistic about what these two-minute drills can do to help people with their digital converter box woes. To recap, the government has been issuing coupons for a good long while now so that over-the-air analog citizens can purchase digital converter boxes at a discount to keep their TV sets working beyond February 17th. Unfortunately, as of last week, less than half of the 32 million coupons requested have been used, and apparently 9.8 million have expired. (No, you can’t reapply once you’ve passed the expiration date.)
More to the point, who the heck is helping people set up their converter boxes when they do get around to buying them? I helped my neighbors out last month, Dave is scheduling a conference call with his mom to get her box working with the kitchen TV, and apparently in Wilmington they had volunteer firemen making house calls. Even when people do get the boxes working, there are quirks that folks aren’t prepared for. My neighbors, for example, couldn’t access any digital PBS stations. I did a little bit of research and here’s what I found:
WHYY-DT is not operating at full power level at this time. The lower power level is creating the difficulty in reception that you described. We are currently in transition to a much greater power level that will be equal to the other digital broadcast stations. This work will be completed when analog TV broadcasting ends at midnight on February 17, 2009. We apologize for the inconvenience during this transition period. Since reception is possible (although not stable) at your location, optimizing antenna positioning and perhaps the addition of an antenna pre-amplifier may improve your reception.