It appears that others share my concern that the transition to digital-only television broadcasts, scheduled for February 17, 2009, may not go off as smoothly as the federal government would like to predict. The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund (LCCREF) announced yesterday that it was opening DTV Assistance Centers in seven U.S. cities that that they have determined to be “at risk“. According to the LCCREF, “Families on fixed incomes, seniors, people with disabilities, people of color, and those who speak languages other than English are most likely to be affected by the transition.” The group is working with local organizations to help meet the needs of these people.
The seven cities targeted by this program are Atlanta, GA; Detroit, MI; Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN; Portland, OR; San Antonio, TX; San Francisco- San Jose-Oakland CA; and Seattle-Tacoma, WA. The LCCREF is working with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to determine that these cities have a high percentage of the at-risk populations yet have had relatively low requests for the NTIA $40 rebate coupons for converter boxes. The DTV Assistance Centers will be physical locations — two in each of the seven target cities — were people can come and get assistance and information about the digital TV transition. The Centers will also hold training sessions and other events to help residents deal with the transition.
I’m glad to see that more efforts are being made to reach these at-risk population segments who are most likely to depend on over-the-air television broadcasts yet are least likely to be prepared for the transition. Two centers each in seven of the largest metropolitan areas in the country will be limited in terms of the number of people that they can reach, but at least an effort is being made. Community groups in other cities and rural areas will also have to get involved if we have a hope of making this transition a smooth one. If you have an organization that is looking for a community project, consider doing something to help people with the DTV transition.