Is rural America a DTV dead zone?


The transition to digital television has progressed to the point where only about 3% of US households are completely unprepared for the switch. But a report notes that for many in rural areas getting analog off-air, there may be problems retaining service.

This problem was not unanticipated – the digital canyon is a well-known side effect of the transition, characterized by a steep drop-off in the ability to receive a usable signal compared to the gradual decay typical of analog broadcast.

The Daily Yonder interviewed a citizen in rural Kentucky who bought a converter box – he had to order it online since it wasn’t available at his local Wal-Mart, and yes, he did have an NTIA coupon – only to find that he lost half the channels he was able to get in analog with just a pair of rabbit ears. He said he was looking at a $150 antenna to solve the problem.

The DY report notes that all most all of the government’s educational and promotional efforts are aimed at urban areas, and that rural viewers are in danger of being forced into expenditures or being left behind. It also notes that for some, even the combination of a converter box and antenna may still leave the viewer with less options.

RBR/TVBR observation: Calling off DTV is not an option. And cable was invented for rural folks who otherwise would not have had any television at all back in the 1950s. Most of them use cable, or satellite. We have to believe that only a small number of people using off-air on the fringe of a DMA. But we do understand that income potential can be limited in rural areas. Perhaps the government can help some of these people procure a roof antenna – otherwise, they may just have to bite the bullet and subscribe to an MVPD.