In about 20 markets, there will be no analog signals after midnight tonight. In 72 markets, one or more of the top-four network affiliates are dropping analog broadcasts.
If you use an antenna (indoor or outdoor) for television reception and cannot get a TV signal on Wednesday, check the FCC "fix reception problems" website or call the Federal Communications Commission at 1-888-CALL-FCC.
“This is not just about whether people can watch their favorite reality show,” said Acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps. “It’s about whether consumers have access to vital emergency alerts, weather, news and public affairs.”
Earlier this month Congress moved tonight's deadline for the nation's television stations to switch to digital TV. But Congress didn't create a new "switch on this date" requirement; it merely extended the deadline.
According to The Washington Post, ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC/Telemundo have agreed to operate their stations in analog mode until the new deadline, 12 June. However, network affiliates are not bound by this pledge.
According to the FCC, 220 television stations stopped broadcasting an analog signal before today. Another 421 will stop broadcasting an analog signal before midnight tonight. There are 1,796 full-power television stations in the U.S. See a list of all TV stations in the U.S. and their broadcast status (pdf).
As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 that President Obama is signing today, Congress has allocated another $650 million for digital TV converters. If you have not yet applied for a coupon, it's not too late. The coupons may only be used for eligible converter boxes sold at participating consumer electronics retailers, and the coupons must be used at the time of purchase. The coupons expire 90 days after mailing, and it has been taking 3-4 weeks for coupons to reach homes.
Price check digital TV converter boxes.
Why is Congress helping citizens buy digital TV converter boxes?
First, television broadcast over public airways, like radio sent over pubic airways, is part of the nation's emergency communication system. Second, Congress decided in 1997 to sell the spectrum used to transmit analog TV signals; whether this spectrum should have been sold or leased is debatable. The auction, targeting firms experienced in advanced cellular technology, netted almost $20 billion. According to Popular Science:
Qualcomm will be the hardest hit. Qualcomm planned to use their new bandwidth immediately to significantly expand their MediaFLO technology, which provides streaming video/television to mobile devices branded through Verizon’s VCAST and AT&T’s Mobile TV platforms. Already in 65 markets nationally, MediaFLO was slated to add an additional 40 markets within days of the original digital TV transition date of Feb. 17. These new markets included majors cities such as Boston, Houston, Miami, San Francisco, and Qualcomm had built over 100 new transmitters in preparation.