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Harry Vanderpool, a beekeeper, lives on a hill nearly 1,000 feet above the Willamette River, outside Salem, Ore. It should be a good spot for TV reception, and it used to be.

But now that analog signals are disappearing, leaving only digital ones, he may be losing all his channels.

“When you listen to the advertisements, it’s ‘Oh, all you have to do is get this little digital converter box and hook it up,’” Vanderpool said. “Well, we get nothing. Zero signal strength.”

While generally better than analog, digital reception with antennas can be tricky. Although millions of people will receive more channels when switching to digital, many others are finding that stations they used to get in analog form won’t come in on their converter boxes or digital TV sets.

In Ionia, Mich., retiree Bruce Jones is down to watching the two or three channels, rather than the dozen he used to get.

“They tell me I need an outdoor antenna, which I just can’t afford,” he said. To spare the $10 for the converter box, he had “cut out a day of groceries.”

It’s not just rural and small-town viewers like Vanderpool and Jones who are having problems with the phase-out of analog TV, which has been on the air for nearly 70 years. It’s being done to give more room on the airwaves to wireless broadband, TV for cell phones and emergency communications.

In Hollywood, broadcast engineer Dana Puopolo gets the local stations fine with an indoor antenna in his bedroom, where he gets a view of the broadcast towers on Mt. Wilson, a dozen miles away. But even an amplified indoor antenna isn’t enough to supply a watchable image to his widescreen TV, which is in the living room on the other side of the apartment.

“You can get it so the picture’s perfect, and then when you sit down, 30 seconds later it pixelates into oblivion,” Puopolo said, describing how the picture breaks up into big chunks of color. “The dirty little secret about digital is that it doesn’t have nearly the coverage of analog.”

A third of the country’s TV stations have already turned off their analog signals. Many of them stuck to the original Feb. 17 deadline set by the government, even though it was hastily extended to June 12 to provide additional funding for converter box coupons. However, most of the stations that have turned off early are in smaller cities and sparsely populated areas. The big-city stations are mostly waiting until June 12.

On Feb. 18, the day after more than 400 stations went all-digital, nearly half of the 25,320 people who called the Federal Communications Commission’s DTV call center did so because of a reception or antenna issue. Of the rest, most called because they had problems relating to the converter boxes or coupons.

There are several issues that conspire to make digital reception tricky. They can be especially vexing because digital broadcasting is an all-or-nothing proposition: You either get a perfect image or you get nothing at all. The only in-between state is the intermittent freezing that Puopolo experienced, which is more irritating than snow or static wandering across the screen of an analog TV.

A study published last year by market research firm Centris estimated that more than half of all households will have problems with digital reception. The study was criticized by several groups as exaggerating the problem. The FCC itself said 5 percent of households were likely to have problems.

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