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Digital TV test reveals trouble spots

By: Warren Gerds, Green Bay Press Gazette

Last week's 60-second test of digital television by Northeastern Wisconsin's seven stations had a significant impact.

Nearly 3,000 viewers called in to a phone bank for three hours Wednesday night after seeing a message to do so on their analog set.

Analog signals will be shut off Feb. 17, and over-the-air viewers will need a digital receiver or an analog-to-digital converter.

The local test confirmed what already is known from Wilmington, N.C., the first U.S. market to go fully digital.

The poor and elderly will be affected, and points distant from transmitters will get no signals, said Dan Ullmer, the De Pere native TV engineer who pulled the switch for the transition at Wilmington.

"Many I have heard from don't understand why we did this to them or what to do," Ullmer said. "They don't have family to help, and can't afford to buy the right antennas or hire someone to help them."

The issue could explode into the biggest failure in the government's digital television transition, he said.

The broadcast range for digital is less than analog, and people 60 or so miles away from Green Bay stations are finding they cannot receive digital signals.

"I'm afraid a lot of people are going to be disappointed with some aspects of the digital switch all over the country like we found here in Wilmington," Ullmer said. "It is great if you are inside the coverage range but very disappointing when you're not."

Not affected are people who subscribe to cable, satellite or AT&T services.


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