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Two South Florida stations go digital next week

Two South Florida television stations are among hundreds across America that will go ahead switch their Digitalbox signals from analog to digital next week, even though both Congress and the Obama administration have asked to postpone the transition.

WSBS-SBS 22 and WPXM-Ion 35 will drop their analog signals in favor of digital on Feb. 17. The change won't affect viewers who get their television through cable or satellite, but sets receiving signals through antennas will stop working unless connected to a digital converter box.

Every TV station in America had been scheduled to switch signals on Feb. 17, but Congress last week -- acting at the request of the Obama administration -- postponed the mandatory cutoff of analog signals until June. But the government said stations that wanted to go ahead and make the switch next week could do so.

The Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday released a list of nearly 700 stations that will switch to digital next week. Though it includes about 50 channels serving Florida, the only stations in Miami-Dade or Broward counties making the early switch on are WSBS and WPXM.

About 90 percent of American households have cable or satellite television service. But Nielsen Media Research has estimated that about half of the remainder -- serving perhaps as many as 6.5 million people -- are unprepared for the switch.

The digital converter boxes that allow antenna-equipped TV sets to receive the new signal are available from most consumer electronic stores for about $40. The boxes can be obtained free with a coupon offered by the federal government, but officials say requests for the coupons are backed up and can't be fulfilled for months.

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