DTV-Day Minus 25…

Nielsen has announced that about 3.3 million U.S. households remain totally unprepared for the end of analog television broadcasts on June 12. If you’re a glass-half-full type, this means that about half the households that were totally unprepared in January are now at least partially prepared. On the other hand, if you’re a glass-half-empty type, then this is as if everyone in the entire Seattle/Tacoma/Bellevue metropolitan area is still unprepared.

With less than a month to go, the FCC has released an update on its preparations for the transition. To the commission’s credit, they express a desire to help those segments of the population who are most likely to be underserved and unprepared: “low-income individuals, minority communities, non-English speaking consumers, senior citizens, consumers with disabilities and individuals living in rural areas or tribal lands.” It’s not clear that they are applying sufficient resources at this late date. Here are some examples.

The FCC is sending out “about” 180 employees to the 49 markets that have the highest numbers of unprepared households. That’s about one for every 20,000 unprepared households. They will be working with local government and agencies to help them educate consumers.

The commission has “issued 12 grass roots contracts to establish up to 400 walk-in centers and 12,000 DTV help clinics” across the country. That’s one center for more than 8,000 unprepared households, and keep in mind that many of the target population may find it difficult to travel to these centers.

The FCC expects to have arrangements with third-party contractors “capable of providing up to 218,700 installations across the country.” That’s an installation for one out of every 15 unprepared households. Also, we learned from those markets that transitioned early that many households that might have been in the “partially prepared” category turned out to need assistance.

The FCC also plans to have “as many as 4,000″ operators at their national DTV help line: 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322), though they don’t indicate how long that peak will be available. Expect that all 4,000 will be busy on June 12 and 13.

Now, I understand that there’s a significant number of households that will remain unprepared, more or less no matter what we do. The problem is that many of the FCC’s activities seem to be put together on the fly, in spite of the Congress granting an eleventh hour extension of another four months from the original February transition date. A lot of people will still be unprepared, and I expect that the cable and satellite companies are going to see a lot of new subscribers in the weeks following the end of analog TV broadcasts. If you know that you need some installation work done for satellite or cable, do it now because these people are going to have a very busy summer.