Bay Area TVs make the DTV conversion

June 14, 2009 2:18:54 PM PDT
The day has finally arrived; TVs in the Bay Area have now gone digital.

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But what is good news for most viewers is still creating confusion for some.

Day one of the transition has been very busy, even for those who have been preparing for it like cable providers and the FCC.

Some customers waited until the very last minute to pick up their Comcast converter boxes.

The lines, the calls for help, the new subscriptions are all causing the cable provider right now to up staffing by 30 percent.

The digital TV transition happened at midnight, and TV owners are still trying to figure it all out.

For 60,000 Bay Area residents who do not have a cable or satellite subscription and use the old fashioned rabbit ears for reception, it could be more complicated.

Panic is clogging the phone lines at the Self Help for the Elderly offices in San Francisco. They are getting about 100 calls an hour, mostly from low income, non English speakers who either did not know about the DTV transition or do not have the right tools.

"People who have rabbit ears will need to install the converter box," DTV project coordinator Winnie Yu said.

Non subscribers will pay about $50 for a converter box.

Representatives say the number one problem they are seeing is people forgetting to re-scan their channels.

The nonprofit is also making house calls for those still struggling with the transition.

One woman only needed a new digital antenna. Instead, she was sold a brand new digital TV.

"She could have plugged that new antenna into her old TV and plugged up her converter box and she would have been fine, it probably would have cost her $25-30," community organizer Mistique Cano said.

The TV cost $300 and since she still does not have the proper equipment, it still does not work.

Help line representatives say for the most part retailers are helpful and are selling the right products for the transition. But they do say they have heard several stories about the elderly being pushed to buy expensive, unnecessary things, like a new TV.

Their advice -- ask lots of questions.

Making the DTV transition

There are three ways to make the transition:

  • Get a digital converter box.
  • Subscribe to cable or satellite.
  • Buy a new TV that is digital ready.

Remember, if you're getting your signal over-the-air using a converter box or digital TV, you may need to rescan the channels the first time you use your television after the transition.

So, the first time you turn on your TV on Saturday, June 13th, follow these steps. Press menu on your remote and choose the channel scan function. Your TV set or converter box will then find all the channels available in your area so you can keep watching your favorite shows.

If you still have questions about the digital TV conversion or how you can get a converter box or coupon, please take the time to call these numbers: 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322) or for local help dial 2-1-1.

Coverter box coupons will still be available through the Commerce Department even after June 12. For details, visit www.ntia.doc.gov/dtvcoupon

You can also get more information online at www.dtvanswers.com.

The Bay Area also has several walk-in assistance centers to answer your DTV questions and help you get set-up.

Self-Help for the Elderly (407 Sansome Street) in San Francisco offers bilingual services in Chinese. Vietnamese and Chinese speakers can also find help at the Southeast Asian Community Center (875 O'Farrell Street) in San Francisco.

The Oakland DTV Assistance Center (1431 23rd Avenue) also offers Spanish and Tagalog.

For help in the South Bay, visit the India Community Center (525 Los Coches Street) in Milpitas.

In home assistance:

Self Help for the Elderly: 800-958-2999
Apollo Industries: 800-504-5677
Koring Group: 800-310-8515 (Spanish option also)
Deployment Essentials: 866-550-4388
Best Buy: 877-229-3889

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