Digital TV Test Offers Some Real-world Lessons

As we wrote earlier, Wilmington, N.C. was getting to be the victim, er, volunteer city in a full-on digital TV experiment.  What was the expectation?  Well, the hope was that it would be a smooth transition, especially since Wilimington has a lower percentage of residents who would be affected by the changeover.  But it sure as heck wasn't smooth, after the switch was thrown on Monday at 12 noon EDT.

The test in Wilmington, where officials had made a concerted effort to get the word out about the switch, is a good indication that more education is needed. According to the Journal, by mid-afternoon roughly 74 calls had been placed to two TV stations, WSFX-TV, a Fox affiliate, and WECT-TV, an NBC affiliate. The newspaper also reported the FCC received about a hundred calls on its toll-free help line in the first few hours after local broadcasters shut off their analog signals. Most of the calls were from people who needed help programming the new digital converter boxes, the newspaper said.

Even though the switch to digital in Wilmington, N.C., wasn't as smooth as some might have hoped, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said it served its purpose, which was to provide valuable lessons for what needs to be done to make sure the nationwide transition goes smoothly.

That's interesting, because it hadn't occurred to us that the boxes would actually need programming.  We were of the thought that you would simply hook them up and they would work.  Foolish on our part, we suppose, because in our position, with satellite or cable, there's no concern over these boxes, and we would figure all would be worked out by the powers-that-be such that the hookup would be seamless.

We forgot: this is a government gig, so that was a silly idea.  Still, the good thing is that with this experience under their belt, the FCC can plan better for D (for digital) day next year.  And hopefully everyone will be ready then.