Friday, June 12, 2009

The Big Switch

There are expected to be about 1 million folks in the U.S. today who will plop down and turn on the TV -- and get nothing. Then, again, if they were unaware of the end of analog signals or don't have cable or satellite, you have to wonder how much TV they watch anyway.

Stations across the country planned to cut their analog signals today, ending a six-decade era for the technology and leaving as many as a million Americans without TV service.

The Federal Communications Commission put 4,000 operators on standby for calls from confused viewers, and set up demonstration centers in several cities.

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 move to new frequencies Friday.

The shutdown of analog channels frees up the airwaves for modern applications like wireless broadband and TV services for cell phones. It was originally scheduled for Feb. 17, but the government's fund for $40 converter box coupons ran out of money in early January, prompting the incoming Obama administration to push for a delay.

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