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The people around Bergton, Virginia (above), bought new televisions. They got the television converter box. They did everything they were told to be ready for the conversion of the local television signal to digital. But when the switch came, they lost their signal nonetheless. The one station that broadcast in their town was gone.

NPR reports this morning that this is becoming a common problem in rural America. There are more than 4,000 licensed translators that push the television signal to thousands of rural communities, reports Howard Berkes. (There are probably 2,000 unlicensed translators lurking about, too.) Unless these translators are upgraded, they won’t transmit the new signal. That’s what happened in Bergton. “I made the prediction four years ago that at least 50 percent [of translators] would go dark because of lack of planning,” says Kent Parsons, a Utah-based translator expert and vice president of the National Translator Association.

It’s not expensive to upgrade translators, reports Berkes. But some are so old they can’t be upgraded and new translators must be purchased. That is costly. In Kit Carson County, Colorado, getting new translators was going to cost up to $400,000. There’s no count of how many translators went dark when about a third of the nation’s TV stations switched to digital in February. The rest will change June 12.

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