It’s less than a year until the digital-TV transition
People in as many as 25,000 Hawaii households, or roughly 6 percent of the state's population on all islands excepting Kauai, could be staring blankly at equally blank TV sets by this time next year without at least one crucial purchase.
This means any household with an old-fashioned, analog TV set that receives free, over-the-air television signals using so-called rabbit ears, "as I have at my home," said Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona yesterday.
Aiona and executives from Hawaii's network-affiliated television stations and Oceanic Time Warner Cable explained the ongoing transition to digital television, or DTV, as well as what consumers need to know to prepare for Feb. 17, 2009, when full-power TV stations will cease analog broadcasting.
If a TV is marked "analog" or "NTSC," it will need a DTV converter to translate the digital signal into a format the old boob tube can show to its owners.
Over-the-air viewers with digital, or "ATSC" sets needn't make adjustments, nor do households subscribing to cable or satellite services.
For analog viewers the federal government is offering, while supplies last, a maximum of two $40 coupons per household as a subsidy toward purchasing converter boxes. The boxes range in price from around $50 to $70.
Viewers can apply for coupons online at www.dtv2009.gov, by phone at 1-888-DTV-2009 (1-888-388-2009), by fax at 1-877-DTV-4ME2 (1-877-388-4632) or by mail at P.O. Box 2000, Portland, Ore., 97208-2000.
It is very important to note, Aiona said, that the coupons must be used within 90 days. Upon expiration they cannot be replaced.
Stations have spent millions of dollars on new infrastructure for the transition to digital, said Bob Vaillancourt, director of engineering for KHON.
Further complicating matters in Hawaii was a long-ago order to remove all broadcast antenna from Haleakala. Broadcasters have been working to relocate equipment to Ulupalakua Ranch. The TV stations will be on a single, 200-foot tower, said Mike McCarthy, chief engineer for KGMB-TV.
Many have also started adding technology for high-definition broadcasts, but that is a separate issue; consumers needn't buy an HDTV set to receive DTV signals.
Existing antennae should work with the new converter boxes and old TVs, McCarthy said. The picture and sound quality will also be superior, if tuned properly.
Kauai residents are served by translators, which are not included in the FCC mandate to cease analog broadcasting, so the stations will continue to transmit analog signals on Kauai, said Mike Rosenberg, president and general manager of KITV.
is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4747, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at: email@example.com