Three digital television assistance centers opened in San Antonio on Friday to help ensure owners of older television sets will have operable TVs when analog broadcasting ends next month.
The centers are at the Communication Service for the Deaf of Texas, the Texas Media Empowerment Project at Esperanza and the William C. Velasquez Institute.
The locations were disclosed a month after a national civil rights group — the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund — announced it would open the centers using a federal grant to pay for staffing.
San Antonio was one of only seven cities selected for the DTV centers because the communities were at a higher risk of being affected once traditional analog broadcasts end Feb. 17, leaving viewers who rely on antennas without television reception.
Ernesto Olivo of the Texas Media Empowerment Project said staff at the centers will help residents apply for free digital converter box coupons and answer any questions about the digital transition, such as how to hook up the boxes.
The government's TV Converter Box Coupon Program distributes two free $40 coupons, in the form of a credit card, to households to purchase digital converter boxes.
“A lot of our members don't have access to computers, so they come to our office and we'll order the boxes for them,” said Viola Casares, program director of Fuerza Unida, which will help staff the center at the Velasquez Institute. “Also, a lot of our members don't speak English, and we'll be able to help them.”
Olivo said because the federal government has a waiting list for those who apply for the free coupons, people being helped now are more than likely to be unprepared when analog broadcasting ends.
He said because of the waiting list, there is a national effort to convince the government to postpone the Feb. 17 digital transition date. But he said it's unknown whether that will happen.
“Regardless of whether they move the date back or not, our goal is to encourage people to sign up for boxes,” Olivo said.
He also said the centers will serve as collection points for anyone in the community who wants to donate unexpired converter box coupons or digital converter boxes.
“We're encouraging people who ordered boxes who really don't need them to come drop them off at the centers and that way we can make sure they can go to someone who does in the community,” Olivo said.