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FCC Staffers Going Shopping in Wilmington

The digital transition is now less than four months away, at least in Wilmington, N.C.

To emphasize that point, the Federal Communications Commission said its staffers will be at Wilmington-area retail stores -- Best Buy, Circuit City and RadioShack, specifically -- May 31 to mark "100 Days to Digital" and inform customers of what they need to do to get ready.

There will be DTV demonstrations and a place to sign up for the DTV-to-analog government-subsidy coupons that can be used for converter boxes that will allow viewers with analog-only TV sets and no cable or satellite service to continue to receive full-power signals.

There was no word back from the FCC at press time on whether there would be analog pass-through converter boxes available at the stores. Viewers to the majority of low-power and translator stations will still be receiving over-the-air analog signals after the February 2009 digital switch, and the same goes for the Sept. 8 early switch in Wilmington. The analog pass-through boxes allow the continued reception of analog signals without having to unplug the box.

Most of the boxes don't pass through analog signals, and they are in short supply in stores, according to various reports, including from the Community Broadcasters Association, which represents low-powers.

Best Buy is also selling a kit -- essentially an A/B switch to help retrofit DTV-only converters to make analog reception easier.