Well, today was supposed to be the big deadline for the national switch to digital television. While that date got pushed back to June 12, as of midnight tonight, 641 stations in the U.S. (36 percent of the country) will have shut off their analog broadcast signal.
The places where many or all of the major networks in that area are going digital include San Diego and Santa Barbara, Calif.; Rockford, Ill.; Scranton, Pa.; and Burlington, Vt.
Today’s mini-switch will be a bellwether for the larger transition in June. According to Nielsen, as of Feb. 1, 5.1 percent of U.S. homes (5.8 million) weren’t ready for the DTV switch (though the National Association of Broadcasters disputes this figure as too high). The FCC’s DTV call center (1-888-CALL-FCC), along with some industry partners, has 4,300 operators standing by to offer assistance.
The delay till June will also give those on the wait-list for DTV converter box coupons a chance to receive and redeem them. The coupon program had run out of money, but the recent stimulus package that President Obama is expected to sign today has $640 million in additional funding.