Help File: Stronger digital-TV signals, texting donations from prepaid phones

By Rob Pegoraro
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 24, 2010; G04

Q: When TV went all digital, I stopped getting channels 7 and 9. Then last week both channels just appeared. Did they change something?

A: Both Washington stations boosted the power of their transmissions to address reception issues that arose when they moved digital broadcasts to VHF frequencies last June.

That move wasn't as easy or simple as you might imagine: Broadcasters can't crank up their signal without first getting permission from the Federal Communications Commission.

WJLA (channels 7.1, 7.2 and 7.3 on the digital dial) moved first, bumping its transmission from 30,000 watts to 52,000 in September. WUSA (9.1 and 9.2) had to research interference concerns with two Pennsylvania stations and so did not secure an increase from 12,600 to 52,000 watts until December.

The effect of these changes in my home was obvious: I no longer have to move a rabbit-ears antenna in front of a window to tune in to those two stations. I've seen similar reports on sites such as the electronics-enthusiast haven AVS Forum.

Both WJLA and WUSA's upgrades were granted on a conditional basis, with final approval awaiting further studies. These stations, in turn, may have other options to explore; in December, WJLA filed for permission to air a second digital signal to cover areas of poor reception in and near the District.

So if you haven't had your TV or converter box rescan the airwaves for new stations lately, try doing that now.

Can I text a donation for Haiti from a prepaid mobile-phone account?

That depends if your prepaid service has enabled this option. MGive, the Denver company managing these text donations (http://mgive.com/haiti), reports that Virgin Mobile USA and Cricket Wireless, among others, support text donations while TracFone does not.

Rob Pegoraro attempts to untangle computing conundrums and errant electronics each week. Send questions to The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or robp@washpost.com. Visit http://voices.washingtonpost.com/fasterforward for his Faster Forward blog.

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