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Digital delay allows for problem solving

TRI-COUNTY AREA—The end date for the “digital conversion” has been put off until June 12, giving more people a chance to prepare for the switch from analog to digital television.
Congress delayed the switch to give people more time to buy converter boxes if needed.  However, television stations do not need to wait until June 12 to start broadcasting only in digital, but according to the Federal Communications Commission, may make their switch anytime after Feb. 17.  Once a television station starts broadcasting only digitally, televisions that picked up channels with antennas or “rabbit ears” will no longer work without a converter box.
Such converter boxes are being sold by many places in the area and because the switch from analog to digital is mandatory, the government is offering discount coupons.  The FCC has a Web site where people can sign up for coupons, but now there is a waiting list.  For more information on applying for a coupon, go to  One thing some people in the area have forgotten when using their coupons is that there is an expiration date on each coupon.
Jim Schnitzler owner of the RadioShack in Penn Yan said about 99 percent of people purchasing converter boxes in his store are doing so with coupons and he has seen some coupons that were expired.  He adds that once someone has been issued a coupon, the government will not give them another even if the coupon expired.  Schnitzler added that the delay is a good idea because it will give people a chance to put up a new antenna in good weather if they need it.
“In rural communities they may need different antennas,” he said.  One common issue he has seen some customers have is that once the converter box is hooked up to antennas, the channels do not come in as well as they previously did.
“They need to reinvest by getting better antennas.  It means spending more money,” Schnitzler said.  “Rabbit ears may not cut it.”
This is also one concern the Offices for the Aging have for seniors in the area.  Bobby Milton with the Yates Office for the Aging said that seniors may not be able to afford a new antenna on top of buying the converter box, even with a coupon.
“It’s going to be a real problem for seniors if they don’t know what to do.  There are a lot of corners (of the county) with no cable,” she said, something Schnitzler also confirmed.  “It’s not necessarily an easy transition.”
Which is why the FCC has awarded a contract to WXXI out of Rochester as one of 12 agencies to help people with the digital conversion.  According to the WXXI Web site they were given $202,498 to offer educational services.  Kristin Tutino, station publicist for WXXI, said that with the delay though, they will need to stretch those funds out over the additional months.
The services WXXI offers are to areas within the station’s broadcast area, which includes parts of Yates and Steuben Counties.  The main service is a help line at 866-348-9994.  If the operators can not help over the phone, WXXI will send an installer to the person’s home at no cost to them.  The final step in the service is WXXI is holding community events to educate people about the conversion.
Tutino added that one common problem people are calling about is that the converter box hooks up just fine, but the antenna is still an issue.  The Schuyler County Office for the Aging was unaware of any agency that was awarded a contract covering their area.
Customers who bought a converter box at Wal-Mart are being directed to http://www.1800customersupport/com/rca if they have problems hooking up the converter box.  Kelly Cheeseman, with Wal-Mart, said they have seen a demand for the boxes increase.
Many of the nursing homes and assisted living residencies do not need to worry about the transfer.  Places like the Falls Home, Clinton Crest, St. Mark’s Terrace and Jefferson Village apartments all already have cable through Time Warner and do not need converter boxes.

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