As of February 17, all full-power television stations in the United States will be required by law to begin broadcasting in a digital format. This will mean that those households that are not capable of receiving a digital signal will lose their TV reception unless they take the appropriate steps.
The reason for the transition is that broadcasting in a digital format provides viewers with better picture and sound quality than an analog format and more viewing options. Those households that contain televisions that are hooked up to either cable TV or satellite TV will not be affected by the transition.
If you are not a subscriber to cable TV or satellite TV, or if your TVs do not have a digital tuner, you can either purchase a DTV converter box for your existing TV set, purchase a TV set with a built-in digital tuner, or subscribe to cable, satellite, or another pay TV service.
A special website, dtvanswers.com, has been created to aid people with the digital transition by the National Association of Broadcasters. One of the options available at the website is the ability to search a database to find out if your current TV contains a digital tuner. Other options explain how to prepare for the transition depending on the type of TV and reception you now have, where to buy a converter box, how to set up a converter box, and how to choose an antenna.
It is important to know that many TV stations are already broadcasting in digital so that if you either want to start using a converter box or want to test one you’ve already purchased, you don’t have to wait until February 17.
Coupons from the federal government had been available until recently to help consumers offset the cost of purchasing converter boxes. Recently, however, it was announced in Washington, D.C. that the government had reached its coupon funding ceiling. If you haven’t already signed up for the coupon program, you can still get on a waiting list by visiting DTV2009.gov or calling 1-888-DTV-20009 (1-888-388-2009, 1-877-530-2634 (TTY).
The President of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund (LCCREF) Wade Henderson stated in a Tuesday, January 6, press release, “We know leaders on the Hill are working hard to find additional funding to make sure that everyone who needs a coupon can get a coupon.”
Some of the local retailers in Santa Monica that have been selling converter boxes are Circuit City, Magnolia Audio Video, and Radio Shack. They are also available at Best Buy in West Los Angeles and Westwood. More than 20 converter boxes with various features are available. They cost approximately from $40 to $70 and are also available online for purchase.