Klobuchar Warns of DTV ‘Cliff Effect’
Sen. Amy Klobuchar writes FCC, NTIA to reiterate concerns about DTV 'cliff effect.'
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 9/12/2008 7:47:00 AM
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) wrote the Federal Communications Commission and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to reiterate her concerns about the DTV "cliff effect."
She pointed out that 21% of her state relies on over-the-air TV and said the FCC and industry need to educate consumers about the issue.
Unlike analog broadcasters, where a weakening signal means an increasingly weak picture, when a digital signal gets weak enough, there is no picture at all. In addition, the coverage areas of digital can vary from analog, as was the case in Wilmington, N.C.
The solution may be repositioning or upgrading antennas, but for some fraction, it will mean losing access to that TV-station signal. Klobuchar said not enough has been done to educate viewers that some may lose their signals even if they buy new DTV sets or converter boxes.
The FCC was aware of the problem and was looking to get a better handle on it by studying Wilmington.
The NTIA oversees the DTV-to-analog converter-box-subsidy program. Those boxes are necessary to allow analog-only sets to receive the new DTV pictures that stations are migrating to Feb. 17, 2009.
Klobuchar's letter comes after antenna problems showed up as a major cause for calls from Wilmington, N.C., TV viewers to the FCC after that market pulled the plug on full-power analog TV early -- Sept. 8 -- to help the FCC get a handle on the problems facing a national roll-out.
“The entire nation will have to make the DTV transition just a few months from now,” Klobuchar said in the letter. “The Wilmington, N.C., switch-over raises concerns about how effectively the federal government is preparing Americans for the DTV transition. The agencies should quickly apply the lessons learned in Wilmington to make sure consumers are aware of the potential coverage and technical problems they may face as part of the DTV transition.”
Klobuchar pointed out that she brought up the reception issue last April at a DTV hearing with FCC chairman Kevin Martin. At that hearing, Klobuchar asked whether the FCC was trying to educate those folks who might lose some signals and need new or different antennas.
Martin said the problem was that it would be hard to identify who those people were until they hooked up their boxes or new TVs, although he pointed out that the consumer-electronics and broadcast industries teamed up on a Web site to help viewers try to figure out if they will need new antennas.
WECT-TV Wilmington, for example, got 232 calls from viewers in outlying areas who lost their TV signals. The FCC attributed that to the fact that its analog signal reached out-of-market viewers -- in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Raleigh, N.C., for example -- who won't receive the Wilmington signal now that it is digital.
An FCC spokesman said Friday that the commission was currently evaluating the complaints that came in and the issues they called about.
She also pointed out in her letter Friday that those falling off the "digital cliff" may be people least able to afford that blow -- rural folks who are less able to afford an antenna upgrade or a cable subscription.
Klobuchar said she wanted answers to the following questions:
· 1. What, if anything, have the FCC and NTIA done to make consumers -- particularly rural viewers -- aware of the potential digital cliff phenomenon?
· 2. What will happen to those viewers who purchase a new television or converter box and nonetheless cannot receive television coverage because of the digital cliff?
· 3. Have the agencies given any thought as to how to make the people affected by the digital cliff whole, especially those who acted in good faith but nevertheless find themselves without an ability to receive over-the-air television? What contingencies are being considered for this group?
· 4. What attention did the FCC give to educating consumers in the Wilmington, N.C., test market about digital-cliff issues prior to the switch-over?
· 5. How does the FCC and/or NTIA plan to quickly share and apply nationally any lessons learned in Wilmington about coverage and technical issues facing consumers?
(MAINE): for five years now-I've written and e/mailed the FCC about the 'great' Train Wreck that is coming to your Town in less than 7 weeks!! ...a few of our Stations to the EAST (Bangor), have already converted and if you are 'very, very' technical minded: you'll receive some of the signals; however, my OTA (over the air) FREE signals are coming from OLD and NEW Yagi Antennas perched in TREES and on pipes behind the ole Shed!! ...some of the Digitized Signals are still on the low and high band of VHF...and work well!...but---but....but....you must be able to receive a basic composite signal or 'nothing !! ...there are peope within 20miles and looking at the xmtr tower and 'blue' screens...nothing. It's a return to the 50's and 60's....but most Seniors cannot get up on their rooks ?? ...they'll never make it alive. The FCC Engineers are to blame, the Government in general...BILL ClINTON didn't want the Japanese to take over the "digital" field and hurriedly signed the 'proclamation'((**remember, I believe it was Eisenhower or NIXON that gave away the AMPEX cassette business to the Japanese....we made a big mistake....so maybe, the rational for President CLINTON???? although, Bill Clinton has left ujs with the current "economy" in--that He and Phil Grahm head of the Banking committees...REMOVED the (Roosevelt, FDR) Glas-Steagal ACT; --that would have PREVENTED our current economic crisis ...TRUE!! if you get the signals its ' gorgeous and magnificent...the Wife and I OHHH and AHHH all the time....our Southern signals at Portland ME (when they tested...came IN excellent on UHF frequencies), but they quickly turned them off to save power costs....its another $20-30,000 monthly in a bad economy!! ....the one 'bitch' is that if you just turn the antenna a half an inch, you lose the "scanned" signals....very delicate...our People will be going crazy trying to figure out this CLIFF EFFECT...Train Wreck!! ....the Engineers should require that the STATIONS use my ERP (Effective Radiated Power) and low orbiting Satellites to fill in desert areas...one thing that We will miss receiving...with ANALOG TV signals...you could get distant signals just about everywhere....NO MORE the Government wanted to take our FREE AIR and sell it off to the Lobbying CELLULAR Telephone Companies...seems so, they could have used another spectrum....now if your local station is 'digitized' and operating on the VHF (hi and low) band....in DIGITAL its terrific! we have a couple doing so and the signal is extended...but most people will be assigned to UHF freqs...way UP there!....enough...have fun...dave (skowhegan, maine)
Wm. David Savoy - 4/24/2009 10:30:39 AM EDT
I''ve been complaining for some time now to television stations and the FCC about the extremely low power levels used for DTV. In my area the average DTV signal will only be four percent as strong as its analog counterpart. This comparison is for stations that will move their digital signal back to the current analog channel frequency after Feb. 17. Higher channel numbers require higher power, so a valid comparison can''t be made unless the channel frequency is the same.
I see Kevin Martin attributes some of the complaints from the Wilmington, NC DTV test area to people living outside the defined market who did receive analog television but now can not get digital. It seems like he is saying that if you live outside a defined market, your complaint is not valid and he gives it no consideration. Too bad for you. I have never seen an empathetic statement from him. He''s working against us rather than for us. Who pays his salary? In my opinion, Kevin Martin sees what he wants to see. Good for him. If he lived where I do, he''d be seeing NOTHING.
I say the digital broadcast power needs to be increased ASAP, or the transition must be delayed until the problems being revealed can be remedied.
William Leinonen - 12/16/2008 11:42:00 PM EST
The cliff effect will take TV away from me completely. Why aren't more people looking into this before we are all forced to have only digital? I have been looking for months to find out how badly this switch would effect my viewing. I not only can't get the farther away stations we watch, but stations less than 50 miles from me don't come in either. The switch should at the very least be pushed back. If difital is so much better,why aren't those frequencies being alloted for fire and police and leave the TV the way it was -the way it works perfectly fine. My antenna on the roof might as well be a giant bird perch after February, because it won't be of any use for TV anymore.
Gail Mank - 10/10/2008 1:14:00 AM EDT
If you haven't seen a commercial for the DTV change then maybe you don't watch tv.
It is on just about every other commercial.
and the stacks of DTV converters are piled up at Walmart.
In My opinion the next time you try the transition the 20 percent should decrease.
Klobuchar is wasting her time with this. why is she not bitching about the airlines going digital with their communications which are still ANALOG. PLANE TO AIRPORT "STATIC" ARE YOU THERE?"
Sean Thompson - 9/14/2008 12:28:00 PM EDT
Another reason to continue analog until at least the Canadian cut-off date of Aug. 31, 2011. Then there's the bad weather issue, which, to my knowledge, the FCC has not addressed. DTV signals fail in a teeming rain; where are the propagation studies for both signal strength and inclement weather? There seems to be "let them eat cake" attitude toward folks who are antenna-dependent. If Sen. Klobuchar wants to protect this population, she will sponsor a bill to delay the analog cutoff and to suspend spectrum sale transfers in deference to the public interest.
Adam Smith - 9/12/2008 3:34:00 PM EDT
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