Democrat FCC commissioner Michael Copps told a town meeting in Wilmington, NC, last week that its DTV test there in September is important because there’s still a lot of “technical things” we don’t know about the transition.
“As hard as it is to believe this late in the process, there are still a lot of technical things we don’t know. Engineers can run the numbers until the cows come home, but until you actually get out into the real world, you don’t really know how things are going to work,” Copps said.
“How well do those new digital signals travel? Do they travel the way analog TV signals travel? How many people will need new antennas to receive digital? And if they do, are those outdoor antennas for digital when they only needed rabbit ears for their analog sets?”
Copps also expressed concern about consumers and which messages are reaching them, as well as partnerships between broadcasters and the community.
“In any effort of this scale, there are unknowns that no one anticipates and you find out about only when you throw that switch,” Copps said. “That’s the category that really keeps me up at night. That’s why this test is so important. And that’s why we need other broadcast markets to step up and run tests like this, or at least field tests on more limited parts of the problem, such as robustness of the DTV signal; whether sometimes indoor antennas might have to be replaced by outdoor; and whether there are differences in performance among the various kinds of set-top boxes, to name a few.”