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Most local residents are ready to say good-bye to analog television

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Although some communities around the country are struggling to prepare for the switch from analog-to-digital television, most Barry County residents seem ready for the approaching digital television transition.

"The digital signal is a much better signal," said Jerry Deal, of Washburn, who purchased and installed an analog-to-digital converter box in his home several months ago. "Compared to the great signal, installing the converter box is a minor inconvenience."

Deal was probably one of the first Americans to apply for an analog-to-digital converter box coupon at www.dtv2009.gov. The $40 coupon covered most of the converter box purchase price, which was around $52, and was very easy to install, but Deal admits that someone with fewer technology skills would likely find the process confusing.

Recently, reports have emerged about businesses that have advised individuals to purchase equipment that is not necessary for the DTV transition. In most cases, the individuals who are taken advantage of are senior citizens, low-income families or non-English speaking residents.

Naomi Marbut, a member of the Cassville Senior Center, found help with the digital conversion through her daughter and minister.

"My daughter bought the converter box for me in Joplin," said Marbut, who lives in Sherwood Forest. "She used the coupon, and I sent $10 with her, which covered the rest."

Marbut said she had planned to hire a local handy man to install the converter box, but her minister, Jerry Nickle, volunteered to install the box at no cost.

"I've had it for about two weeks," said Marbut. "The vision on my television wasn't very good before, but when they connected the box I could see real well."

Marbut said that before receiving her analog-to-digital converter box she only received channels KY3 and KOLR10, which are both broadcasted from Springfield.

"I get a lot more stations now," said Marbut. "I probably won't watch many of them though. I'm not a big TV watcher. That's why I decided to go with the box."

Marbut said nearly all of her fellow Cassville Senior Center members started purchasing cable or satellite services long before they heard about the digital transition.

"When we moved to Southern Hills, we couldn't get any television so we decided to get cable," said Cassville Senior Center member Vivian Kinsel. "I think Naomi is one of the last ones who doesn't have cable. Most of us couldn't get television without it."

Although Deal admits that the digital broadcasts are clearer than the analog broadcast he receives, he has experienced something that Marbut has not. He is actually receiving broadcasts from fewer local stations through his converter box.

"Before we received channels 10, 12, 16, 21, 27, 33 and 51 fair," said Deal. "Now we get all three broadcasts from channel three, all three PBS channels, 27, 33, 51.1 and 51.2.

"The box works great, but we lost channel 10, which we watch a lot," said Deal. "We also lost the ability to record programs using our VCR."

For these reasons, Deal is considering purchasing satellite services with a digital video recorder.

"In order to record programs like we are used to doing and receive all of the stations that we want, we would need to purchase a 90-mile antenna, a digital video recorder and a new television," said Deal. "We could purchase a second converter box for our VCR, but the box would still need to be set mannually. We couldn't program it to record."

Deal estimated that he would spend close to $1,100 to purchase all of the equipment necessary to view and record programs the way he has for many years.

"You can purchase several months of satellite services for that cost," said Deal.

In 1996, Congress authorized the distribution of an additional broadcast channel to each television station for digital broadcasts. After approving the additional channels, Congress mandated that all television stations must switch from analog to digital broadcasting at midnight on Feb. 17, 2009.

Last Thursday, President-Elect Barack Obama asked Congress to delay the switch from analog to digital broadcasting due to reports that as many as 40 million Americans are not prepared for the transition.



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