The switchover from analog to digital broadcast TV signals, on tap for February, has been publicized for some time and the necessary converter boxes for older TVs have been made available relatively easily and cheaply
. But concerns that the FCC wouldn't
be able to manage the transition are looking well-founded. After an earlier test in Wilmington, N.C., that threw off warning signs
about the nationwide reaction to the switch, further tests are being carried out across the country, in hopes that the tests will give people an idea if their DTV gear is working, or reinforce to the estimated 19 million Americans who need the converters that the deadline is coming. But the tests themselves are causing plenty of confusion: one writer notes that the test in her area generated both passing and failure messages
on different channels, suggesting a problem with the stations, rather than her equipment. The failure messages came despite the TV getting its signal from DirecTV, when the FCC's been saying all along that people connected to cable or satellite don't need to do anything. Again, just an estimated 19 million Americans still get their TV directly from the over-the-air broadcast signals, so a fairly small chunk of the population should be affected by the switchover. But you get the feeling the FCC's feeble education campaign won't prevent confusion for many, many more.