By Shari Phiel
There’s a pretty good chance you’ve heard at least something about the upcoming analog to digital switch for broadcast television stations. But what exactly is the switch, when will it happen and who will it affect?
Why the Switch?
In late 2005, Congress mandated all full-power television broadcast stations to stop broadcasting in analog format and begin broadcasting in digital format only. Although Congress had originally planned the transition for Dec. 31, 2008, it was eventually moved to Feb. 17, 2009.
The conversion to all-digital television broadcasting, known as the digital television (DTV) transition, will free up much needed frequencies used for public safety communication (police, fire, rescue). In addition, digital transmission is a more efficient technology that provides better picture and sound quality, as well as providing options for multiple broadcast streams or multicasting.
What Do I Need For DTV?
What you will need in your home depends on what type of television you own and how you currently receive your television broadcast.
According to the Federal Communications Commission, as of March 1, 2007, “all television receivers shipped in interstate commerce or imported into the United States must contain a digital tuner.” If you have a television with a built-in digital tuner, and receive your broadcast over the air, you will likely be able to continue receiving your broadcast just as you do now.
If you have a digital-ready television, which does not have a built-in tuner but is a digital monitor, you will probably need a set-top digital tuner to receive transmissions. However, if you have an analog only television, you will need to purchase a digital-to-analog set-top tuner.
For television viewers who are currently cable or satellite customers, the equipment you currently have will likely convert the transmission for you and you should be able to continue receiving your regular television broadcast. For specific questions about your television or cable/satellite equipment, please contact your service provider.
How Much Will it Cost?
“Between Jan. 1, 2008, and March 31, 2009, all U.S. households will be able to request up to two coupons, worth $40 each, to be used toward the future purchase of eligible digital-to-analog converter boxes,” states the FCC. Only those set-top boxes intended for converting over-the-air digital television signals are eligible for the coupons.
For more information about the digital transition, go to www.dtv.gov. You can also contact the FCC directly e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org; calling 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322) voice or 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322) TTY; faxing 1-866-418-0232; or writing to:
Federal Communications Commission
Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20554