Hooray for Wilmington!


It’s praise all around for Wilmington NC, the brave little city that can and will pull the plug on significant portions of its analog television service to give America a window into the DTV-only future. NAB weighed in with a laundry list of issues worthy of particular attention.

Key Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) said, “Given the high stakes for consumers, public safety, and wireless innovation posed by the DTV transition, the planned early transition Wilmington this September will be a critical ‘test-drive.’ I am pleased the local community and the FCC were able to arrange this program and look forward to evaluating the results.”

Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, after congratulating the city, Mayor Saffo (D) and the local Rep., Mike McIntyre (D-NC), said, “As somebody who’s played in rock bands, I know that every good band rehearses and gets it right before it goes on the main stage. In this rehearsal, I hope the FCC will coordinate with not only local broadcasters, but also with local cable operators, DBS operators, state and local governments, local community groups, and local consumer electronic retailers. Significant local involvement supported by the federal government is critical to a successful transition.”

CEA SVP Jason Oxman vowed to have the necessary consumer hardware ready to go. “There are many easy and affordable digital TV options for any pocketbook – from low-cost digital TV sets to very affordable converter boxes. CEA, together with its industry and government partners, is committed to getting the word out about these options to consumers in Wilmington and nationwide.”

NAB welcomed the test. Vice President of the Digital Television Transition Jonathan Collegio commented, “The FCC-initiated experiment in Wilmington can shed light on a number of issues surrounding the national DTV transition in February 2009. The results must be objectively reviewed to determine how or whether the findings can be applied nationwide. NAB will be fully supportive of our local television broadcasters in this effort.”

Here is NAB’s laundry list of questions to answer:

 a. What is the coordination plan between the federal, state and local governments to distribute information about the September 8 experimental analog shut-off?

b. How will the government ensure retailer coordination so that enough coupon-certified converter boxes will be available given the increased demand of the early shut-off date?

c. In particular, what specific actions will the government take to ensure that retailers have “analog pass-through” converter boxes available, given the low-power television stations in the Wilmington market, including one major network affiliate?

d. How will the government prioritize converter box coupon application requests originating from the Wilmington DMA, given the current national backlog of coupon requests?

e. What action will the government take to ensure that national messaging or messaging from bordering markets about the February 17, 2009 transition date does not result in confusion in the Wilmington DMA?

f. How will the government ensure that satellite operators accelerate their coordination schedule? 

g. How will the government ensure that cable operators serving the Wilmington market are prepared to coordinate an early analog shut-off and have they made plans to ensure viewability to analog television subscribers?