DTV Transition May Experience Static

Next year’s switch from analog to digital TV broadcasts could produce more noise than signal, disrupting service for millions of people even if they have the proper converter box, according to a new study from market research firm Centris.

Centris says that the FCC has underestimated the size of the problem. At issue is the distance digital TV signals can travel, and how interference from hills or even trees will impact reception. Analog signals degrade gradually (hence the “snowy” picture), while digital signals just drop off entirely. Centris predicts that in a city like Philadelphia, which has a lot of hills, five percent of the over-the-air TVs could lose reception.

Taking issue with the Centris report is the Association for Maximum Service Television (MSTV). It is still evaluating the study, but doesn’t believe the problems will be as widespread as Centris claims. In the case of New York, broadcasters have had issues since 9/11 with stations having to move from the World Trade Center to the Empire State Building, MTSV notes.

The FCC itself has acknowledged that some disruption to service may be unavoidable with the digital transition, and is looking to launch a full-on ad blitz to educate the public. Roughly 15.5 million U.S. homes still receive TV over the air. Lawmakers are concerned that the switch will impact seniors and low-income residents who won’t hear about the news.

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