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Bay Area prepares for digital transition

 

Some households in the Bay Area and across the nation will see nothing but a blank screen on their television sets Saturday morning if they

have not prepared for the analog-to-digital conversion by Friday night.

Anyone who has cable or who has bought a new TV within the past two years shouldn't need to change anything, said Glenn Phillips, Federal

Communications Commission DTV coordinator for San Francisco.

However, the estimated 2.1 percent of households with older TVs in the Bay Area that are still unprepared for the change need to have two

things: rabbit ears or an antenna, and a digital converter box, Phillips said.

People can sign up for a $40 government coupon for the converter box until July 31. There are many ways to sign up, including through the

commission's Web site, http://www.fcc.gov/. Converter boxes usually run from about $50 to about $80 and are available at most mainstream electronic stores.

If Bay Area residents need help with anything along the way, there is a general FCC hotline, (888) CALL-FCC, and four Bay Area walk-in centers.

Two digital TV walk-in centers are in San Francisco - at the Southeast Asian Community Center at 875 O'Farrell St. and the Self-Help for

the Elderly offices at 407 Sansome St.

There is also a walk-in center in Milpitas at the India Community Center at 525 Los Choches St. and one in Oakland at the Digital Television

Assistance Center, 1431 23rd Ave.

Phillips said about 20 people visit or call the centers each day. He said people most commonly ask about how to set up the converter box once

they have purchased one.

The switch from analog to digital, among other benefits, will clear airwaves to meet a growing demand for wireless services, including first-responder radio, FCC officials said.

According to the FCC, low-income, senior, minority and non-English-speaking households are the most affected by the change because those households are more likely to have older TVs without cable.

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