While most television broadcasters experienced a smooth digital television (DTV) transition on June 12, some did not. Stations with post-transition channels in the VHF band (channels 2-13) were especially prone to problems, and many of these stations began to receive viewer complaints immediately after switching to digital. For some broadcasters, the upper VHF band is not the "beachfront property" they had expected. Instead of providing robust, inexpensive coverage, several VHF stations are experiencing unanticipated and peculiar service losses, especially by viewers using indoor antennas. What makes matters even more puzzling is that other VHF stations are experiencing little or no service loss in the post-transition world. Given the unexpected and variable nature of the VHF service losses, the FCC has dispatched teams of engineers to investigate the phenomenon in several markets.
Some trends are emerging. For example, certain types of construction-stucco and metal siding-seem to be particularly effective at attenuating VHF signals. In addition, some stations have reported that the viewers' use of amplified indoor antennas may do more harm than good, as the amplified signal may be too much for some devices to handle.
VHF stations facing significant service losses within their predicted contours have several options available. If they have not already done so, they can apply for "maximized" facilities on their DTV channels. If maximization is not an option (either because a station is already operating at the maximum power or because it has determined that an increase in power is unlikely to resolve its service issues), stations can apply for same-channel DTS facilities or off-channel digital replacement translators to fill in identified loss areas. Failing that, stations can petition the FCC for a new channel.
VHF stations facing unanticipated service loss are finding that solutions do exist, but such solutions may be legally and technically challenging. Nevertheless, the Commission appears committed to working closely with affected stations to overcome these challenges.