Crisscrossing all areas of the state from Highway 20 to Highway 75 and Highway 385 (just to mention a few), informing Nebraska residents and viewers about the digital television transition for NET Television has been enlightening and mind-numbing, humbling and uplifting.
It’s an interesting challenge that we face. People have become accustomed to receiving their television signals in the current form for a long time. Such a change of course is going to be met with some resistance as, for many, it is their lifeline to the world. Some people have made the change from an analog, over-the-air signal a long time ago as they opted to go the route of satellite or cable. Others, as they have told me, just watch a few basic channels in their busy lives, and they like it that way. It’s a serious issue, as they need it for their news and emergency information.
For these people that is where the help is needed. Many of them are informed and they know that a change is coming. Just 7.4 percent of United States residents are reportedly unready for the DTV switch, so they know they must do something. But have they done it? That is still the big question. Nationwide as of mid-November, 36 million coupons have been ordered through the government program and 14.5 million have been redeemed to purchase a converter box to allow television sets to receive digital programming (if they don’t have cable or satellite). In the state of Nebraska, 223,000 have been ordered, 100,000 redeemed, but that still doesn’t tell us how many boxes have actually been installed and ready to use. Come Feb. 17, 2009, all full-power television stations will be making the move to a digital-only signal, and no one must be left behind, regardless of their coupon status. Every person needs to make that move or risk losing that lifeline.
Taking a projector, a laptop, a PowerPoint presentation and brochures into numerous libraries, community centers and senior centers across the state has given me an inside view into what people are thinking and wondering about regarding the transition. Even though sometimes these groups have been small in number, it’s obvious that many of them have taken the time to inform others about our discussions as well. There have also been multiple articles written in newspapers and stories over the radio airwaves. NET even taped its own DTV special to help viewers become more informed about the transition, but the face-to-face meeting is still key in helping people understand the issue that much better.
Some have become frustrated with the current situation. Maybe they can’t get their converter box hooked up correctly or a signal that they used to receive isn’t coming in very well. But those that have everything hooked up and are receiving signals like it a lot. The picture is much clearer than they received with the old analog signal. In many instances, they are also receiving more channels from their source (at NET, we have three digital channels).
I had one lady come to four different meetings at the Lincoln libraries. At first she didn’t know anything about what she needed to do. By the second one, she had bought her converter box and was ready to know how to hook it up. When she came back the third time, she still had some questions on how to hook it up but felt that she could do it on her own. She brought along a highlighting pen so I could mark just where and when she needed to do a step. With her fourth visit, she was just coming to share with me a list of all of the channels that she was currently receiving. All of the numbers were written down on multiple recipe cards that she was willing to share with anyone.
At NET, we were one of the early ones to make the transition. People in the Lincoln viewing area are now switched over to all digital as of mid-November. But prior to that, we made the switch in the Bassett, North Platte and Merriman areas during the month of October. The Alliance area became digital only in late November. Just the Norfolk, Omaha, Hastings and Lexington areas remain in this conversion.
For those who have waited, it’s time to make the transition. Apply for your coupon, buy your converter box and then try it out to make sure that you will be receiving television come February 2009. Nearly every station is broadcasting a digital signal so there is no reason to wait. The future is digital, so become one of the converted.