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Teletruth News Alert: May 14, 2008

Contact: (see contact info below.)
Tom Allibone, Certified Deputy of the DTV Transition,
Bruce Kushnick, Certified Deputy of the DTV Transition

Digital TV Time Bomb--Hiding the Whole Picture from the American Public.

A Real World Test in Rural Area Reveals Additional Costs of Hundreds of Dollars May Be Incurred for Over-The-Air TV Viewers, Not Counting They May Lose Many of Their Prized Channels.

Hint: Remember the problems with 'rabbit ears' and antennas?"

There's a deep, dark secret that no one is talking about. On February 17, 2009, the country's estimated 13 million over-the-air TV viewers will no longer receive the current analog picture because stations across the country will convert their signal to digital. Consumers who have a regular, working television that is not connected to a satellite or cable company, ---i.e.; free TV, will have to go out and get a converter box that can change the over-the-air signals to the newer digital format.

The FCC has introduced a coupon program for consumers who can get a $40 credit toward the purchase of an approved converter box.(up to 2 boxes.)

Here's the FCC's info about this DTV transition:

As consumers begin to hookup their boxes, some will work very well. In fact, some will get clearer pictures, including high definition, more channels, as well as improved sound quality. Unfortunately, the FCC and the industry have not provided the "total picture".

What's going to happen is pure mayhem because virtually every regulator, especially the FCC, every consultant, including IBM and Ketchum, the PR firm hired to help with this transition, the NTIA, the Cable association and even the TV programs, from PBS or CBS to the Spanish channels never told the truth (or didn't know or want you to know.)

The truth seems to be - the converter box with a regular 'rabbit' ears is not going to work as advertised in all situations, especially rural areas. It could cost hundreds of dollars more per customer, require more technical assistance beyond most customers' abilities to get the channels they already have - or they may lose many of their treasured viewing.

How many people are impacted? This is from the recent KETCHUM REPORT, which was funded via the FCC.

"According to the Consumer Electronics Association, there are currently about 13.5 million analog OTA households in the United States. Non-English speaking/minority, rural/tribal, senior, disabled and low-income populations represent, on average, a higher proportion of OTA households."

Read the report and the marketing plan: notice none of it calls for actually 'testing' the viablility of actually getting service.

While the FCC has allocated hundreds of millions of dollars to educate the public about the transition to digital TV, it has failed to tell the public the full story.

For rural areas or potentially even urban areas, using a regular over-the-air TV is not going to work as the signal in many cases for the shows customers are already watching may be too low and require a 'Booster Box' and the box may do nothing to help.

Worse, the entire process requires an expertise in something foreign to most Americans --- How to put in a proper antenna to boost the signal. This can drive up the costs to hundreds of dollars --- and it still may not work if you purchase the wrong antenna. Yes, most of us remember the era before cable where you had to move the antennas to just the right spot. With a digital signal, you may never see the channels you already have with one antenna. Or, funnier, you may get new channels in Korean or Spanish.

Finally, if you are now getting just an OK signal now with 'some snow' - you will now get pixilations, drop-outs in sound quality, or just a blank screen - making some channels unwatchable.

But the story is isn't just about rural customers. One of the other 'fine print' issues are the millions of households that have a portable TV that is hardwired with its own antenna. Many of these sets can't be upgraded if the reception is poor.

And policy issues? How could the FCC et al pay hundreds of millions of dollars and not do a test on how the box was going to perform or that a new antenna or other equipment may be needed? If the majority of the population who still depend on free TV are seniors, disabled or low income families, how does the FCC expect these groups to fork over hundreds of dollars much less handle the complicated technical issues?

If we were suspicious, could there be a plan a foot to sell/move these people to cable and satellite? Or is this a case of the FCC's greed to get billions to auction off the spectrum while throwing millions of customers under the digital divide bus?

Teletruth has just started testing this process using our Telecom Auditor, Tom Allibone, who lives in a rural area. His digital tale of woe should act as a wake up call for Congress and others to immediately investigate the potential added costs to consumers who can least afford it, and whether the FCC, consultants, et al have simply dropped the ball on something that could cause mayhem in 2009 for millions of unsuspecting consumers. While there are some tests being planned in the future, how is the entire US supposed to deal with this problem with the clock ticking?

Read Tom's Tale of Digital TV Woe:

Links to the FCC DTV page:

Have your own story to tell about the DTV transition?: Mail it to

Tom Allibone, Certified Deputy of the DTV Transition, , phone: 609-397-2257
Bruce Kushnick, Certified Deputy of the DTV Transition

PS: The real problem with all of the information we provide online is that most of those without over-the-air reception will never be able to read this story or check out the links as they are most likely not online as well.