Archive for June 5, 2009

Jun 5, Obama Urges Americans to get Ready for Digital TV


President Barack Obama warned Americans on Thursday who have not prepared for the June 12 transition to digital television that their TVs could go dark if they do not get a converter box soon.

“I want to be clear: there will not be another delay. I urge everyone who is not yet prepared to act today, so you don’t lose important news and emergency information on June 12,” Obama said in a statement.

Congress originally mandated the nation’s nearly 1,800 full-power television stations to switch to digital signals from analog on Feb. 17, and about one-third did so at the time.

But fearing that as many as 20 million mostly poor, elderly and rural households were not ready, lawmakers voted early this year to postpone the transition almost four months.

“The number of households unprepared for digital television has been cut in half. Still, some people are not ready,” said Obama, who has been traveling in the Middle East.

“I encourage all Americans who are prepared to talk to their friends, family, and neighbors to make sure they get ready before it’s too late,” Obama said.

The switch is intended to free up airwaves for broadband and enhanced emergency communications for police, firefighters and other first responders.

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Last-minute DTV tips: 7 days to go

Click on the image above to download a PDF version of the DTV Made Easy brochure.

When analog broadcasts end one week from today, the vast majority of stations will be broadcasting in the UHF band, not the VHF frequency range that’s been home to many analog broadcasts over the years. That’s not just techno-babble you can gloss over. It means you might need a new antenna to keep getting free TV over the air.

We’ve been hammering home this point for months, but with only days left to go, we want to say it one more time. Set-top rabbit ears with only two arms are not designed to pull in UHF signals. You need a UHF/VHF antenna to get all the free TV programming available in your area. Many existing rooftop antennas may be able to get both UHF and VHF broadcasts, but you’ll have to try yours out to see. As we reported earlier this week, our survey of 38,000 Consumer Reports readers found that nearly one in four of the households receiving free over-the-air broadcasts had to purchase a new antenna to get digital signals.

After the transition on June 12, 73 percent of full-power stations will be broadcasting in the UHF band, with 27 percent in the VHF range, according to the National Association of Broadcasters, which has lots of useful information online. Most of those stations already broadcast digital signals (in addition to analog, at least for the next week), so you can try out your setup right now and resolve any problems you encounter. Be prepared for some wrinkles. Our survey showed that 20 percent of antenna users had trouble getting all stations.

Also remember to rescan for channels on June 12 or 13; check our video on setting up a DTV converter box for pointers. Some 600 stations will move to a different channel location than they were on June 11, NAB reports, so you’ll have to get in sync with all those new channel assignments. Stations will be making the switch at various points during the day (they may be alerting you to that timing now with messages scrolling across your TV screen), with many of them going all-digital after 6 p.m. on June 12. That’s why we recommend a rescan on June 13 to capture all the shifts.

For a step-by-step guide that can help you with setup and fine-tuning, download the free PDF file of the "DTV Made Easy” brochure (Adobe Acrobat required) Consumer Reports produced for the FCC and check out the other pieces featured on our DTV transition hub. You can also search through our blogs for the many helpful hints we’ve published over the past year. (Under Categories, in the right column on this page, click on Television to see all TV-related postings, including DTV.)

What are you waiting for? The clock is ticking. —Eileen McCooey

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Sears settles FTC charges it tracked online consumers

spying online tracking Sears Kmart FTC online privacy spyware deceptve practices

Yesterday, the parent company of Sears and Kmart settled charges by the Federal Trade Commission that it used software to track the online bank statements, drug prescription records, video rental records, library borrowing histories, and personal e-mail of some Sears’ customers without adequately disclosing that activity to them.

As we reported here on Wednesday, the FTC has expressed concern that more consumer data is being collected online than is necessary.

In this case, the agency says, some online customers were invited by Sears to participate in an initiative called “My SHC Community.” Those who accepted were paid $10 and asked to download “research” software that would confidentially track their “online browsing.” But the FTC said the broad extent of the tracking was revealed only in a lengthy user agreement, which the agency ruled was “deceptive” and in violation of the FTC Act.

Data collection by online advertisers was a hot topic at this week’s Computers, Freedom, and Privacy conference in Washington, DC.

As part of the settlement, Sears agreed to destroy any consumer data it has already collected and to clearly and prominently inform consumers about any data it collects. —Jeff Fox

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