In making the announcement, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin compared the early switch to the Wright brothers and their first airplane flight at Kitty Hawk in 1903.
"I commend the Wilmington broadcasters for their pioneer spirit to go first to help the entire country prepare for the final transition to digital on February 17, 2009," Martin said. "This experience will help us to spot issues that we need to address elsewhere in the country before next February.”
The FCC said it identified Wilmington as one of a limited number of potential test markets to test the transition because all the commercial stations in the market have already completed construction of their DTV channels and are operating at full post-transition power.
WWAY Chief Engineer Billy Stratton said the station is already prepared for the change. He said the key now is getting viewers ready. The people it will affect the most are viewers who use an antenna, including set-top rabbit ears, to get the current analog signal. Those viewers will need to buy a digital converter box or subscribe to cable or satellite service. The federal government is offering two $40 coupons per household to offset the cost of the converter boxes. To sign up for the coupons and to find out more about the conversion to digital television, visit www.dtv2009.gov. And stay tuned to WWAY NewsChannel 3 for more information about the big switch.