The long-awaited digital television transition is almost upon us, and according to a recent study by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), an estimated 20,000 area residents are unprepared for the switch. After at least two congressional delays previous deadlines were set for late 2006 and February 2009 analog broadcasts from full-power stations will finally cease on June 12. Effectively, this means for anyone still using rabbit ears on an unmodified analog television, that bunnys going belly-up next week. (Cox and satellite subscribers, for once you can feel good about all those hidden service fees.)
There are two ways to avoid getting a snowstorm when you tune in to ABC26 for your Friday night Wheel of Justice fix: purchase a digital-ready television (really, its time) or pick up a digital-to-analog converter set-top box. The benefits of the former are manifold, including flat screens, high-definition capability and all the other improvements made in TV land over the last 20 years, like changing channels without the use of pliers. The advantages of the latter are basically nil, aside from going cheap and avoiding that snowstorm. (Of course, there are some things on local airwaves more sinister than static.)
Residents who don't know hi-def from Mos Def can receive assistance from that most hand-holding and forward-looking of bureaucracies, the U.S. government. On Monday, the FCC dispatched volunteers from the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) to New Orleans to help install converters, adjust antennas and flatten the frequencies in Bob Breck's voice. (Just kidding. They're technicians, not magicians.) Call 1-888-CALLFCC or visit the DTV Web site for in-home NCCC assistance through July 15.