Elderly get help with DTV transition

December 17, 2008 7:43:08 PM PST
The Federal Communications Commission says about 90 percent of television viewers are at least aware of the DTV transition. However in the Bay Area, there are nearly 50,000 households that get an analog signal only and may not be ready to convert. So a new program is being launched to guide those people step by step into the digital era.

On February 17, 2009, TV stations will stop analog broadcasting and you'll need to be able to receive a digital signal if you want to watch television. So at exactly 7:28 p.m. tonight ABC7 will be conducting a test that will let you see if your TV is ready.

Jackson Lee of San Francisco knew he needed to make the switch to digital television and wanted to make it quick. What he didn't know is exactly how to do it, which converter box to buy, how to install it, and how to interpret the instruction manual. Now, at San Francisco's Self-Help For The Elderly, Jackson and others are getting the answers they need.

"We find that by demonstrating the actual how to do it so they can write notes, that will help them go back and install," said Anni Chung.

Self-Help and agencies across the country are opening DTV assistance centers this month to guide people who need help through the digital transition process. Clients can get a converter box right at Self- Help and avoid the hassle of shopping for one. A $40 government coupon covers the cost and they can get a personalized lesson on how to install it.

The Bay Area is one of seven metropolitan areas where, the FCC says at least 10 percent of people are not ready for digital TV. Workers at Self-Help want to turn that around.

"We hope with these extra efforts that last 10 percent will also be able to convert to digital TV smoothly," said Chung.

So, what does the switch mean? All analog transmission will stop and TV stations will transmit only digital signals. Rabbit ears will give you a picture that looks like black and white fuzz, otherwise known as snow, unless you have a converter box. A converter box is one way to get ready. The government provides $40 coupons toward purchase of a box.

You can also buy a digital-ready TV, or subscribe to a cable or satellite service. However, the FCC says, do something before February 17th.

"This digital transition is coming. It is coming in February of 2009, but they need to plan right now. So that they are ready for it. So they don't lose their television," said FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein.

You can also buy a digital ready TV, or subscribe to a cable or satellite service. However, the FCC says, do something before February 17th.

"This digital transition is coming. It is coming in February of 2009, but they need to plan right now. So that they are ready for it. So they don't lose their television," said FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein.

Several more assistance centers are expected to open in the Bay Area. They will be posted on ABC7News.com in the future as they open.

Please note that the government $40 coupon to buy a digital converter box does expire after 90 days and cannot be used after that. You may have to get a friend to call in and request a coupon and they'll have to share their coupon with you. You can request a converter box coupon here: www.dtv2009.gov

These are numbers for any questions you might have:

  • For an automated service, call: 1-877 388 5353
  • To speak with a live operator: 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322)
  • For live, local help, dial 2-1-1
  • Or you can go online to www.DTV.gov

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