As I’ve mentioned here on more than a few occasions, digital TV broadcast signals do not carry as far as analog signals. A weak analog signal results in a snowy picture, but a weak digital signal results in a blank screen. How can you tell what your experience will be with broadcast television after the analog transmissions stop next month?
It turns out that the FCC has been looking into this question, and have been comparing digital and analog broadcast reception in markets all across the country using techniques that predict signal quality. You can see their results at www.fcc.gov/dtv/markets/. You can download the whole report for all 1,818 stations, or you can just get the maps for a specific Nielson Designated Market Area. The maps show where coverage will be added, where it will be lost but covered by another station with the same network, and where it will be lost with no coverage from another station. For a fascinating overview of the TV coverage of the entire country, check out one of the network maps. Here’s the map for NBC; the document you can download lets you zoom right into the county level.
The green shows new coverage under digital broadcasts, orange is where a station is lost but covered by another, and red is where coverage is lost completely.