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NTIA: Wilmington DTV Switch Still On Track

The track of Tropical Storm/Hurricane Hanna remains unclear as it heads up the East Coast, but Wilmington, N.C., is on track for the early analog shutoff Sept. 8, according to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, at least in terms of distribution of digital-TV-to-analog converter boxes.

The NTIA, which is charged with overseeing the government subsidy for those boxes, said Wednesday that more than 36,000 households requested 67,000 coupons, with 25,000 of them redeemed. Of those 36,000 households, 17,000 said they relied on over-the-air broadcasts.

That 17,000 figure was at or a little above predictions for the number of analog-only households in the market, but it could include some viewers not technically in the market but still receiving signals from Wilmington.

At press time, Hanna was a tropical storm with winds of 60 miles per hour and higher gusts, according to the National Hurricane Center, but it could regain hurricane force Thursday or Friday, the center said in an alert Wednesday.

The storm is moving toward the Southeastern United States, with Wilmington still in the zone of concern. It is expected to make landfall by the end of this week somewhere between Florida and the Carolinas.

The stations in Wilmington planning to cut off analog broadcasts Sept. 8 will not do so if the hurricane hits there, keeping analog signals up and running to provide emergency information to residents.