Congress may have voted to delay the digital TV transition until June 12, but that doesn't mean that some broadcasters can't turn off their analog signal on Feb. 17, as originally planned.
Don't worry — if your local broadcaster is planning on pulling the plug before the summer, you will know about it, according to the Federal Communications Commission. On Thursday, the FCC issued a public notice that set some ground rules for those who want to switch to a digital-only signal.
"Broadcasters that want to discontinue analog on Feb. 17 must notify us of that before midnight Monday," FCC spokesperson Mark Wigfield told TVGuide.com. "If we approve, they must notify the public through 120 messages aired evenly through the time remaining."
Additionally, the early switch must not create any interference with another broadcaster. Wigfield also said those broadcasters who notify the FCC must show support for their decision to switch early, such as research proving viewership preparedness or major economic problems they would endure if they continued the analog broadcast.
Ultimately, the FCC has the final word. "We may deny the request if there is an adverse impact on the public," Wigfield said.
Some broadcasters notified the FCC of their plan to terminate early when the bill first came before the U.S. Senate. As of Feb. 2, 267 broadcasters have indicated their intention to cut analog service on Feb. 17, though Wigfield said it is uncertain whether they will actually change.
So for now, watch for ads from your local broadcaster as a first warning that your service may be changing. Also, Wigfield said a list of broadcasters who will terminate on Feb. 17 will likely be available as early as next Tuesday.
In any case, Wigfield encouraged TV viewers to make their homes digital-TV ready as soon as possible. "Digital is available now, so you should be prepared anyway to enjoy the benefits [of digital TV], and in case a local broadcaster switches before June 12," he said.