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DTV Transition Test Bed

Michael J. Copps is getting his wish. About a month after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner urged agency Chairman Kevin Martin to consider conducting some real-world market tests ahead of the February 2009 digital TV transition deadline for full-power broadcast stations, word's gotten around that Wilmington, N.C., has been selected for an early cut-over.

Reports say the DTV tire-kick will get underway Sept. 8 in the city, which is Martin's home state and, according to Nielsen numbers, the nation's 135th-largest TV market. (See Martin Comes Home.)

Regulators and the area TV stations will soon find out how well those special digital-to-analog converter boxes work and help determine whether there are in fact "serious gaps" in over-the-air DTV reception, as some recent studies suggest. (See DTV Coupon Clippers and DTV Transition’s ‘Major Glitch’.)

And, according to Broadcasting & Cable, the ever-opportunistic EchoStar Corp. (Nasdaq: SATS) says its D-to-A box will be ready to go and available for the Wilmington trial.

A scary thought: If the tests reveal some big problems, is there enough time between now and next February to fix them for those millions of consumers who still rely on over-the-air TV signals?

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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