Fraser Rec District must decide how to address change to digital TV signals
Sky-Hi Daily News
In an era before residents of Grand County could receive cable or satellite television signals, the Fraser Valley Metropolitan Recreation District decided to fund a repeater to relay Denver TV signals over the mountains.
Now, that cable and satellite are widespread, some residents are wondering if their television screens will go blank come February after the digital television transition.
The FVMRD board will make a decision soon about whether to spend the money to keep supplying this service once the digital switch takes place.
“We need to meet and formulate a plan, determine a budgetary cost figure followed by application for grant funding, then we can build,” consulting engineer Alan Greager wrote to the district. “Your window of opportunity is quite narrow and closing day-by-day.”
Broadcast stations in all U.S. markets broadcast both analog and digital signals. After Feb. 17, 2009, full-power television stations will broadcast only digital signals.
Greager prepared a list of options for the district to choose from in deciding which way to go if it decides to continue this service.
The first option is to continue to broadcast analog signals from the district’s translators until the FCC prevents the district from providing the service. The district could continue to provide the service for three to five years.
“For small operators like us they are doing it to offer us an alternative at this point,” said Scott Ledin, district director of parks and recreation .
The district would install a commercial quality digital to analog converter at the input to each translator to continue use of its analog translators.
“This converter allows us to take that digital signal and continue to broadcast it on analog,” Ledin explained.
Each of the five digital to analog converters would cost about $2,695. A federal grant program could provide the district $1,000 for each converter.
The rec district also would have to purchase a special UHF antenna, which would cost about $700. Total cost for this option would be $11,500 to $20,000, depending on available grant money.
The only change viewers would notice is an improvement in the signal quality of the system.
Another option is changing two of the district’s five channels to digital now. The district would have to install new digital equipment and turn off its analog system on two of its channels while continuing to broadcast analog on the three remaining channels.
Viewers would receive six digital channels on the two converted analog channels.
Greager gave this example: Channel 27 would be switched to digital using three channels, 1, 2 and 3; the same process would happen with Channel 30. Then, channels 33, 36, and 39 would continue to run on analog.
The transmit antennas would have to be switched for the two channels that would be converted to digital, and the district would need to install a UHF antenna. Greager said a federal grant program is available to the district for this, and a large percentage of the conversion costs to digital are covered, He estimates the district’s out-of-pocket costs after grants to be in the $35,000 range; without funding it could be up to $70,000, Ledin said. This way the district would continue to provide three analog signals and add six digital channels.
The last option is to switch all five channels to digital, which could cost the district up to $150,000. Grant funding could also be available.
Before making a decision, “We want to try to compile a list of how many people are currently using this option,” Ledin said.
The district has been supplying this service to residents for nearly two decades. The service costs the district $6,000 to $7,000 annually. People who use this system should contact the rec district at (970) 726-8968 or e-mail email@example.com.
Ledin said the decision will have to be made by budget time in early fall.
The Federal Communications Commission Web site states several benefits of switching to all-digital broadcasting. It will free parts of the “valuable” broadcast spectrum for public safety communications such as police and fire departments.
Some of the spectrum will be auctioned to companies so they can provide consumers advanced wireless services such as wireless broadband.
Digital broadcasting also allows stations to offer “improved” picture and sound quality and is much more efficient than analog broadcasting.
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