Are You Ready for Digital TV?

On February 17, 2009, television stations nationwide will stop broadcasting analog signals and switch to all-digital channels. Those with cable or satellite won’t notice the change, but those who receive their channels through a standard antenna may need to make some changes to keep their programs coming.

Why is this happening? The FCC mandated the change to free up analog frequencies for other uses and make more efficient use of the frequencies they have. Where stations can only transmit one channel of programming with an analog signal, they can transmit up to four or five channels with a digital signal in the same amount of spectrum. For example, stations may offer regular programming on one channel and sports on another. Channel 19 has already taken advantage of having multiple channels, broadcasting on both 19.1 and 19.2. Consumers with high definition televisions (HDTV) will have the added benefit of seeing the digital signals in high definition.

People who receive their channels through a standard antenna will need to make sure they are equipped to receive digital TV. Those with newer television sets with built-in digital tuners won’t have to do anything differently, but if the set is older and does not have a digital tuner, there are three ways to get ready for the conversion:

  • Purchase a converter box to convert the digital signal to analog
  • Purchase a new television set with a built-in digital tuner
  • Subscribe to a cable or satellite service that carries the local broadcast stations.

To help defray the cost of the switchover, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration began issuing coupons for DTV converter boxes in February. Each household is eligible for two coupons of $40 each. For more information or to request your coupons, call 1-888-DTV-2009 or visit dtv2009.gov. The converter boxes are already available from retailers.

If you have a DVR (Digital Video Recorder) such as Tivo, you will need to make sure it is DTV-ready, and purchase a new model if it isn’t. For more information about the digital switchover, visit dtvanswers.com. TPW

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