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Report: N.C. town to switch off analog TV early

Federal regulators are expected to announce that Wilmington, N.C., has volunteered to switch to all-digital broadcasts early as a last-minute "test" before the bigger February 2009 transition.

For the vast majority of Americans, analog TV sets aren't supposed to go black as part of the switch to all-digital broadcasts until February 17, 2009. But federal regulators are expected to announce Thursday that Wilmington, N.C., has volunteered to make the transition several months early as part of a last-minute test of sorts, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The waterside town of about 100,000 plans to cut off its analog broadcasting as soon as September 8, according to the Journal and confirmed by a source familiar with the matter. North Carolina is Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin's home state, but it was unclear whether that had anything to do with the test market's choice.

The FCC has scheduled a press briefing Thursday afternoon, where a formal announcement is expected to be made. An agency spokesman declined to comment further but said Martin would be answering questions about the plans at that event.

As part of the larger digital television transition, people who rely on over-the-air broadcasts will have to outfit their analog TVs with converter boxes--which the U.S. government has offered to partially subsidize--or buy new digital TVs or peripherals, such as VCRs.

Of course, residents who rely on cable or satellite for their television service won't have to worry about making any changes to their TV-watching set-ups. For more on what the switch means for you, see our FAQ.