Mike Spaulding is the Director of Technical Operations & Engineering with Comcast and he sorts out some of what viewers need to know.
1. Are consumers ready for it?
While many consumers have heard about the transition, we know that a lot of them are not ready.
• A recent survey by the Association of Public Television Stations indicated that more than 70% of over-the-air households knew what they needed to do to keep watching TV after February 17, but were slow to take the steps.
• According to Nielsen, Spanish-speaking households are among the least prepared for the transition. Hispanic viewers make up about one-third of the U.S. households that rely on antennas to receive over-the-air broadcasts
• About one out of 12 U.S. households remains unprepared for the switchover to all-digital television broadcasts next February because those households do not own either a digital television or a set-top box that converts digital signals to analog for older TV sets, according to the Nielsen Co.
• Almost 10 million homes wouldn’t receive broadcasting if the switchover were to occur today while another 12.6 million households have at least one television that wouldn’t work after the switchover, Nielsen says.
2. What options do consumers have related the digital transition?
• Consumers who use an antenna or rabbit ears to watch broadcast channels will need to make a decision prior to February 17, 2009 in order to continue receiving those channels. Their options include:
o purchasing a government approved TV Converter Box
o buying a new digital television
o subscribing to cable or another video service provider
• With Comcast, there are no hassles with coupons and no need to shop for a converter.
3. What is Comcast doing to help?
Comcast is offering low-cost solutions, including free basic cable for 12 months to those who sign up for at least one additional Comcast service. New customers who choose not to subscribe to additional Comcast services can get basic cable for just $10 a month for a full year. Current customers can add basic cable to additional TVs at no additional monthly fee.
Comcast basic cable does not require the purchase of any new equipment for cable-ready TVs, so consumers can continue to use their existing TVs and remote controls. Since no antenna is needed, choosing cable also eliminates the worry about potential reception problems associated with using an antenna following the transition.
In addition to low-cost solutions, Comcast is helping consumers get through the transition with a number of initiatives including:
• A dedicated website, www.comcast.com/dtvsite, with an interactive tool that provides a personalized action plan based on specific needs of the consumer
• Speeches to community groups
• A comprehensive educational advertising initiative that has aired almost 6 million TV messages on the digital broadcast transition
• 24/7 access to multi-lingual customer service representatives
For more information, you can contact your local Comcast office.