One can hardly remember a time when the nation wasn't preparing for the switch to digital TV and yet when the week arrived, the FCC received 700,000 panicked cries for help from folks who found themselves facing the possibility life without their brain candy.
"This transition is not a one-day affair. We have known about re-scanning and reception issues for some time and have been doing our best to get the word out," acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps said in a statement
On Friday alone, the day the switch was made, the FCC got more than 300,000 calls. About one-third of the calls were folks finally calling for the $40 coupons to offset the cost of converter boxes to revive their not-so-suddenly obsolete televisions. The day before the switch there were 319,990 requests for coupons.
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Sadly, the coupons take nine business days to arrive.
And there was no shortage of people who couldn’t figure out how to use the newfangled converters, most of whom needed only to perform a simple re-scan for digital frequencies.
Chicago led the way in calls for help, followed by, in order, the proud people of Dallas-Fort Worth, New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore. The Windy City's standing as the nation's leader in unpreparedness should come as no surprise; a "soft test" of the system in March indicated that they weren't ready.
TV stations were free to choose when in the day to cut their signals, and many were holding off until late at night. That means the full effect of the shutdown will not be apparent until this weekend.
"Our job is far from over," said Copps.
If this is any indication of our nation's general ability to get things done, this recession is going to last a long time.