Last month, we posted on this blog that the deadline for full-power television stations to transmit only in digital format (popularly known as “DTV”) had been set for yesterday, February 17, 2009. Congress has since moved the deadline back to June 12, 2009. Some stations, however, are moving ahead with the original date or plan to switch before the new June 12 deadline. This means that those consumers still receiving TV signals through rabbit-ear or rooftop antennas and who have not yet set up a digital converter box, will notice today that some channels, such as KOFY and KICU, have disappeared and more will continue to disappear over the next few months.
Fortunately, there are many options available to make the move to digital, although some cost more or require more work than others.
One of the simplest options is to buy a new television set that contains a digital tuner. Practically every new television you find in a store today will be digital-ready, and the few that are not are required by law to be clearly marked as such. Be aware that digital television (DTV) is not the same thing as high-definition (HDTV) and that if you purchase a TV simply because it says ‘HDTV’ on the box, even though it will contain a digital tuner, it may be more machine than you require.
Another option being advertised in many places is to subscribe to a cable or satellite television service. These are popular options that may have benefits, including digital recording capability and many more channels than regular over-the-air TV, but will have a recurring monthly cost and may also require you to purchase or rent additional equipment anyway.
Those consumers wishing to keep their older television set will need to obtain a digital converter box. This box can be purchased at most electronics stores and connects between your antenna and TV. Congress created a coupon program for consumers to obtain up to two coupons, each worth $40, to be used towards the cost of eligible converter boxes. The funds available for coupons have been exhausted but applications are still being accepted and will be fulfilled as existing coupons expire or more funds become available. Since it is unclear how long it may take to issue new coupons, some consumers may choose to purchase a converter box without a coupon, although coupons cannot be used for reimbursement.
Much more information is available from the FCC at either their website, www.dtv.gov, or their toll-free information line, 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322). Information and applications for the converter box program can be found at www.dtv2009.gov.