During the last part of 2008 and early 2009, it was hard to watch TV without being deluged with public service announcements telling viewers that the digital transition was coming and that viewers might need a digital converter to continue receiving signals.
Despite the high amount of ads warning about the transition, many households were unprepared and the converter coupon program offered by the government ran out of funds. As a result, President Obama postponed the transition from the widely publicized February date until June 12.
With the final deadline coming this Friday, The New York Times reports that a large number of American households are still not ready for the transition. According to a survey by the Nielsen Company as of May, more than 10% of the 114 million households in the country with TVs are totally or partly unprepared for the digital transition.
The viewers most likely to lose reception on the June 12 are low-income families, the elderly, and the handicapped. The transition will hit inner city and rural areas the hardest according to Michael J. Copps, the acting FCC head.
Copps told The New York Times, "We are much better prepared than we were in February, when the original transition was to have occurred, but there will nonetheless be significant disruptions. In the past five months we’ve tried to accomplish what should have been done over the last four years."
The Nielsen survey found that across the country over three million homes that don’t subscribe to cable or satellite are completely unprepared for the transition and will not be able to watch TV after June 12. An additional 9 million homes with cable or satellite on a main TV have TVs in other rooms of the home that will not be able to receive broadcasts after the transition.
Some of the largest cities in the country are on the list of the 49 most vulnerable areas. Some of the most vulnerable areas include New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Boston, and Dallas. In the New York market alone 92,000 homes are unprepared.
President Obama issued a statement saying, "We have worked hand in hand with state and local officials, broadcasters and community groups to educate and assist millions of Americans with the transition. I want to be clear: there will not be another delay."
Many American's were prepared in February for the transition and according to the Consumer Electronics Association; consumers getting ready for the digital transition have provided a boom for electronics makers with sales of digital TVs up 32% compared to last year despite the recession.
Officials fear that many consumers who have purchased digital TVs or converters will still lose broadcasts after the transition because of incorrectly installed hardware. Officials advised consumers to rescan their channels to ensure they were receiving all the digital channels available after the transition.
The vacated analog spectrum will be handed over the wireless companies who plan to use the spectrum for internet access and other services like mobile TV.