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Tijuana First City In Latin America To Ditch Analog

Aired 7/19/13 on KPBS News.

Tijuana became the first city in Latin America to switch completely from analog to digital television. The city is a test case for the rest of Mexico.

Mexico plans to wean the entire country off analog television by the end of 2015. Switching to all digital will open up valuable broadband space for Internet and other wireless services.

An impromptu trial run a few months ago helped Tijuana prepare for the switch Thursday. The city was supposed to go all digital at the end of May but authorities pushed the date back following protests from residents who weren’t prepared, and woke up to blank TV screens.

Political parties requested the switch be postponed until after the July 7 elections for state and local authorities.

The delay gave authorities more time to install converter boxes in low-income homes.

Still, a steady stream of Tijuana residents without TV signals showed up Thursday morning at an office of the federal telecommunications commission.

Consuelo Alvarez came to see if she qualified for a free converter box but was told her neighborhood didn’t meet the low-income standard. A worker scribbled “Wallmart” on the back of her application and told her she could buy a converter box there for 600 pesos, about $40. Alvarez said she can’t afford it.

“I’d be worried if I didn’t have water or electricity,” Alvarez said. “But TV, well, I just won’t watch it.”

When the U.S. government ordered TV stations to go digital in 2009, homes that weren’t ready tended to be minority and lower-income. But according to the market research firm Nielsen, four months into the switch to digital, 0.5 percent of U.S. households still weren’t prepared.

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