Hawaii last week became the first state to transition to digital television, leading hundreds of confused locals to call into the FCC’s help center. Though the transition appears to have been a technical success, the new digital signals mays never reach some of the 20,000 Hawaiians who rely on analog service.
“Unfortunately for some people, reception is going to be a problem going forward,” said John Fink, VP of KHNL/KFVE-TV, according to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. “There are topographical and transmission issues that we just can’t overcome.” Similar problems of no reception at all are expected when the digital service is switched on in the continental states. Already consumers in parts of Maine have been told they won’t be able to get the digital broadcasts.
“The calls we’re getting now are from those people who are waking up and saying, `Oh my God, what do I do?'” said Lyle Ishida, the FCC’s Hawaii digital TV project manager, just before the switch.
For the next month, a seven-minute warning message explaining the transition will continue to loop on broadcast signals.
So why did Hawaii transition to digital a month ahead of the rest of us? They have this endangered bird called the dark-rumped petrel that likes to nest on the slopes of Maui’s Haleakala volcano. The FCC, which possibly made up the bird as an excuse to run this early test, claims that park rangers want to remove analog transmission towers on the volcano ahead of bird’s breeding season.