Hey, who turned out the lights? Today's the day Uncle Sam starts pulling the plug on analog, over the air transmissions. What that means is that if you live in the States and still pull TV signals off an antenna or rabbit ears on an older TV set, you'll be looking at a screen full of snow.
Except now just some of your TV signals are getting snuffed. The U.S. Congress has bowed to pressure to push back the absolute cut off date until June 12 (at which time they'll probably push it back again).
Still, around 500 U.S. stations--about one quarter of the total--are sticking with today's cut off date. Some of those are border stations that affect Canadian analog households. The ones closes to Toronto, for example, are: Buffalo WUTV (Fox) Rochester; WUHF (Fox); and Syracuse WNYS-TV (MyN). There are several more U.S. stations shutting down their analog signals today around Montreal and Vancouver. See AP's complete list of stations here.
The CRTC has set Aug. 31, 2011 as the Canadian digital conversion date, but even Canadians will lose the signals from the border stations who are going through with the shut down today.
If you are already a cable or satellite subscriber, or own a set built after March 1, 2007, you are already digital and you won't be affected by any of the analog shut downs.
This switch is being sold as a technology upgrade, the path to better sound and pictures. While that is true, the reason it is being mandated and not just market driven is money. Read Time magazine's take on it here.
The change was mandated through legislation passed by Congress in 2005 as part of "the Deficit Reduction Act." Some of the old signals will be used to provide an improved emergency broadcast system. The rest were auctioned off to the highest bidder, with Verizon and AT&T, among others, paying $19 billion for those supposedly fuzzy, broken down old UHF analog signals. Uncle Sam pocketed the coin. Now do you see what this is really all about?
According to a Nielsen survey released last week, 5.8 million households, or 5.1% of all U.S. homes, are still not digital ready. About a billion-and-a-half was set aside for coupons for folks in the States to run out and buy new digital set top boxes (no such program was set up or exists here). And forget about it, cross border shoppers. Those coupons are long gone.