Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Television & Technology News: All You Need to Know About the Digital Television Transition (2009)

February 17, 2009:

All Full-Power American Television Stations Will Switch from Analog Broadcasting to 100% Digital at Midnight.

Apply for Your $40.00 Government Coupon Today (see sample below) to Purchase an Eligible Converter Box to Switch from Analog to Digital.


In order to offer viewers additional programming options and unprecedented picture clarity along with freeing up airwaves for emergency responders to use, all American broadcasting will switch from analog to digital in mid-February.

If you have already purchased an HDTV or are connected to cable, satellite, or any other pay service, you will not require a TV converter box eligible through the government program.

Q: What are my options?

First take a quick quiz to find out what your best solution would be by clicking here.

Other options:

  1. Hang onto your existing analog television and purchase the converter box that will plug right into your television to ensure it will keep working after 2/17/09.
  2. Connect to a cable, satellite, or other pay service.
  3. Purchase a television with a "digital tuner."
Q: How do I apply for a coupon?

A: Coupons will be sent to eligible households and are good for 90 days from their mail-date. Additionally, they are available to be applied for now through March 31, 2009, while supplies last.

You can apply for up to two $40.00 coupons per household by visiting the website online, calling 1-888-DTV-2009 (1-888-388-2009) or by mailing their application (found on the website) to:

DTV 2009 Coupon Program
PO Box 2000
Portland, OR 97208-2000

Another telephone option for the hearing impaired is to dial the English TTY number at 1-877-530-2634 or the Spanish TTY number at 1-866-495-1161.

Be sure to guarantee that elderly friends, family and/or others without internet access are ready for the conversion as well by assisting others in applying for coupons and installing the converter boxes.

To follow up on the status of your coupon, you can visit this link.

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Q: Where can I use my coupon(s)?

A: You can find participating retailers on a map by clicking here and the coupon(s) received by mail will also include a list of nearby locations. Products are also available online (see below).

Q: How do I know if I have an analog or a digital TV?

Consult your owners manual to see if your TV has a built in "digital tuner." If it does, you are all set to begin receiving digital signals. If not, you will need a converter box.

Q: Will I still need an antenna? Do I need to purchase a "DTV" or "HDTV" antenna to receive digital signals on my television?

A: You should be able to receive digital signals with your existing "broadcast antenna," but if you find you cannot, you may want to contact either the retail store in which you purchased your converter box or your local broadcaster. To troubleshoot, click here to learn more about antennas.

Q: How big is the converter box?

A: It would depend on the box but they're roughly the size of a paperback book and most should fit directly on top of any standard small to medium television set.

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Q: Will Closed Captioning still be available?

Yes, manufacturers are required to provide Closed Captioning which will display on your television as before.

Q: How much are the converter boxes? How do I know if it's an "eligible" TV converter box and are there quality differences?

A: They run anywhere between $40 and $70 and again, all American households are eligible for two coupons to be used on two different boxes.

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All "eligible" boxes must meet the highest technical and performance standards that were determined and set by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to qualify for inclusion into the government coupon program.

To find a list of the eligible makes and model numbers that will work with your coupon(s), click here to visit the NTIA website.

The NTIA advises consumers to visit the converter box manufacturer's website to determine quality and comparisons between the box models and you can also discover rankings by searching directly for "DTV consumer box ratings" through Consumer Reports Online.

Q: Will my VCR or DVD player still work after I plug my converter box into my analog TV?

Yes, it should work just as before but if you want to receive "over-the-air" programming via your VCR, TiVo, DVD-R, etc. plug the converter box into that component instead of the TV.

Q: Will I receive High-Definition TV with the converter box?

A: No. Analog televisions are incapable of receiving or displaying true High-Definition resolution but the picture quality will improve dramatically. If you specifically want to view High-Definition television, you may want to "recycle" your Analog television (visit this website for eco-friendly tips) and purchase a new HDTV.

One bonus of moving directly to HDTV is that you would then be ready for the full digital revolution via Blu-ray and other HDMI components that can hook into your computer, Netflix account, Video on Demand and more.

Q: Do I need to wait for February 17, 2009 to experience higher quality on my analog television?

A: No, in fact the NTIA encourages consumers to buy their boxes early to ensure that they're working properly, take advantage of in-store demonstrations on how to set them up so you can assist others, and improve your current picture clarity.

(Samantha Who? Photo Source)

Likewise, if you need additional troubleshooting you can explore the FCC's guide by visiting their website here.

To learn more about the switch, the TV Converter Box Coupon Program, and other FAQs, please visit the NTIA's dedicated website by clicking here.