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Mary Robinson is all about real-world information on the switch to digital television signals. The success of the DTV switch will depend on regular folks understanding new technology and getting it running in their homes. Ms. Robinson is weighing in on those nitty-gritty details, sharing her enthusiasm for TV-signal technology with those who are less technically inclined. She’s developed an expertise through years of hands-on experimentation, pulling in signals from the rooftop of her Texas home. Now she’s a resource for consumers struggling with the digital switch. We discovered Mary right here on TVWeek.com, where she reliably dispensed information in the comments section of this story, First Digital TV Converter Box Wins Government Approval about the digital switch. Let’s keep the conversation rolling!

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Weathering the Storm During Digital Switchover

August 5, 2008 4:09 PM

For the third time in four years, our area was hit with a tropical cyclone this morning. It seems we have been under the gun for a while now.

First it was Hurricane Rita, which hit on my birthday in 2005. We lucked out in ’06, but were hit by Humberto, the only hurricane to reach the U.S. last year, and now today, hit again by tropical storm Edouard.

It came on shore just a few miles from where I live, here on the upper Texas Gulf Coast. I woke up this morning at 4:10 a.m. with Edouard already coming on land with rain and blustery winds. I was able to go back to sleep, but reawakened when the lights went out at 6:40 a.m. (Boo!)

The storm brought 60mph winds here and, thankfully, my RS V/U 190 antenna survived another assault.

A little after 10 a.m., I went to get my generator, which I keep stored about 25 miles inland. I kept calling my home number every few minutes, and finally got the answering machine, so I knew the lights were back on. Fortunately, I did not have to load the generator onto the trailer and haul it back to my house. The lights were off for about four hours.

All in all, it was not as bad as Humberto last year, when I was without power for almost 48 hours, or after Hurricane Rita when it took two and a half months to get reconnected to the grid.

This time, I was still able to keep up with the progress of the storm and see the radar updates (even if they were in black-and-white) from my local stations with my emergency battery-powered TV. As I have stated before in the forums, we will no longer have that option after the transition to digital-only broadcasting.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, has passed a bill to allow U.S. television stations within 50 miles of the border with Mexico to continue to broadcast analog TV signals through Feb. 17, 2014. Senate bill SB-2507 had four co-sponsors and was passed by the Senate by unanimous consent. It has a companion bill, HR-5435, in the House of Representatives, introduced by Rep. Hilda Solis, D-Calif., with 18 co-sponsors.

According to Sen. Hutchison’s press release, the bill is needed because “those along the border are especially unprepared for the DTV transition. Households that continue to watch stations from Mexico, rather than taking steps to prepare for the transition, may not receive Amber Alerts and Emergency Alert System messages.”

The press release goes on to state that without this important legislation, the lack of preparation could pose an unnecessary and avoidable public safety risk.

My question to Sen. Hutchison would be, what if you do try to prepare and still cannot receive the digital signals where you once could receive the analog warnings? What happens to the rural residents of Kansas, Nebraska and others in Tornado Alley? What happens to those who live out in the countryside in Wyoming, the Dakotas and Minnesota when the blizzard and whiteout warnings are issued? What happens to those of us who live along the Gulf Coast after the hurricane hits, and the lights are off?

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