Traveling the highways and backroads of this rural area, it is quite common to see television antennas on rooftops, sticking up next to a house or attached to the barnyard light pole. For those residents who have relied on the free airwaves as a source of information and entertainment their entire life, the transition to digital TV may be an economic strain and a technical nightmare.
However, President-elect Barack Obama is recommending a delay in the digital TV conversion set to take place Feb 17.
The transition, mandated by congress, will free up broadband width space for use by emergency, police and public safety agencies.
In a news conference held Jan. 8, the president-elect transition team co-chairman John Podesta said the government funds to support the change are, "woefully inadequate."
The funds for the $40 coupons for the digital converter boxes have been depleted and the president-elect has concerns for the millions of homes which still have not made the conversion.
Even though the money has run out, there is a waiting list for those requesting a coupon and there is no guarantee those on that list will receive a coupon in time for the Feb. 17 transition.
According to a December Nielsen Media Research report, 7.8 million households, representing 6.8 percent of the homes with televisions, have not upgraded any of their television sets for the transition.
Podesta said in a letter to Congressional leaders, "With coupons unavailable, support and education insufficient, and the most vulnerable Americans exposed, I urge you to consider a change in the legislatively mandated cutoff date."
In a report published in the New York Times, President-elect Obama's economic recovery package would include additional funds for the transition.
The converter boxes are still available locally at many retail outlets. Radio Shack in Mammoth Spring sells converter boxes beginning at $59.99.
According to Ruth Armstrong, one of the owners of the Mammoth Spring Radio Shack, almost all of the over 100 boxes they have sold, have been purchased using the $40 coupon.
As of Saturday, Jan. 10, the Mammoth Spring store had the regularly priced $59.99 converter box on sale for $54.99 but were out of stock until Monday when they were scheduled to receive more inventory.
"We haven't had any technical problems with people installing the boxes, it's just as simple as plugging in any DVD player," Armstrong said, "We have had problems with people unable to get a signal. Because of the hills and hollers around here and the curve of the earth, you have to get the antenna up high so the signal misses trees, hills, buildings and things like that. Many people around here are having a lot of trouble; they cannot get a signal with rabbit ears or other types of indoor antennas.
"If you have an antenna on a high elevation or tower, they are not having any problem at all. The digital signal is like satellite, either you have it or you don't and the drop off is dramatic, it only goes so far and stops, it doesn't get fuzzy like analog, you have it or you don't."
Those who have not applied for a coupon but want to be added to the waiting list, information is available on-line at www.dtv2009.gov/Options.aspx. Those who do not have access to a computer can call a toll free number, 888-388-2099, to obtain an application.
Coupons are only valid for 90 days. Those who have a coupon and do not intend to use it to purchase a converter box, can pass it along. Drop it by any of Areawide Media's offices in Salem, Highland or Thayer, for further distribution.