DTV centers open in the Bay Area

February 4, 2009 2:33:49 PM PST
There is less than a month to go before we switch to digital television, but there are still 21 million people across the country who are not ready. Bay Area agencies received a $1.6 million federal grant to help people make the switch.

NOTE: Since this article was written, the DTV transition has been delayed until June 12, 2009

It has become a race against time for lots of people whose television sets will go blank in February if they don't take action. Now, several Bay Area agencies have stepped up the pace.

With the cutting of a ribbon Friday, a new campaign began to reach thousands of Bay Area residents who are still not ready for the switch to digital television on February 17.

"Being able to make sure that folks from all backgrounds, regardless of language ability, are able to have access to our cutting-edge technologies is incredibly important," said San Francisco Supervisor David Chiu.

Three DTV assistance centers officially opened -- two in San Francisco and one in Oakland -- where helpers will guide people step-by-step through the conversion process. It's a challenge that's become harder after the government ran out of money for converter box coupons, and with talk of delaying the date there is more uncertainty.

"This can be a confusing process to negotiate and as we know it's getting more confusing every day," said Tracy Rosenberg with Media Alliance.

"The FCC is totally committed to the transition with is going to take place on February 17," said Glenn Phillips of the Federal Communications Commission.

Assistance centers are going full-speed ahead, assuming the switch is less than a month away.

At San Francisco's Self Help for the Elderly Friday, workers started helping people learn which converter box to buy, how to hook it up, and how to find digital channels.

The switch means television stations will stop transmitting analog signals. If you subscribe to cable, satellite or another television service, there is nothing to do. But those who get their signal over the air, will need to a digital television or a digital converter box.

About 5 percent of the Bay Area still isn't ready, but organizers say they hope to turn that around.

"To get the maximum outreach to our community, so that whatever happens, they are ready," said Annie Chung with Self Help for the Elderly

Bay Area DTV Assistance Centers

Oakland Digital Television Assistance Center
Coordinated by Media Alliance
1431 23rd Avenue
Oakland, CA 94606
(The Oakland DTV Assistance Center will serve low-income and newcomer populations in Oakland and throughout the East Bay)

Self Help for the Elderly
407 Sansome Street
San Francisco, CA 94111
(Self-Help for the Elderly will serve the Asian and elderly communities of the Bay Area)

Southeast Asian Community Center (SEACC)
875 O'Farrell Street
San Francisco, CA 94109
(SEACC will serve the Southeast Asian communities of the Bay Area)

There are also plans in the works to open a fourth DTV center in San Jose.

For DTV conversion assistance, you can call 1-888-CALL-FCC or go to