I will be the first to admit I am an electronics geek. And as such, I often get asked by people how the digital television switch will affect them. Using plain English, I will attempt to explain what the switch means and who will be affected.
The switch will occur at 12 midnight February 17, 2008, when all broadcasts are required to be 100 percent digital. For the vast majority of people, this switch will mean nothing, but there will still be some who are affected by it. The purpose of the switch is to provide better sound and picture but also to free up airwaves to be used by emergency responders.
If you currently have cable or satellite service, you don’t need to worry. You already have digital television, and your cable and satellite box act as the converter or digital tuner.
The only section of the population that will be affected by this switch are those who do not have cable or satellite services, but rather get their television signals from a roof antenna or “rabbit ears.”
To determine if your television has a built-in digital tuner, you may need to contact the manufacturer with a model number. However, if you purchased the television recently (after March 2007) your television most likely has a digital tuner. If it does not, you have the option of purchasing a new television, which is expensive, or a digital converter box, which typically range in price from $50 to $80. Or you could always cave in and subscribe to cable or satellite service.
The federal government has also enacted a program to help people with this switch, offering two $40 vouchers per household for the purchase of digital converter boxes. To apply for these vouchers you can visit www.dtv2009.gov.
You can also visit the site for more information about the switch and what you can do about it.
The deadline to apply for these vouchers is March 31, 2009, and the vouchers are only good for three months after they are issued.
So this is how it all breaks down. If you have cable or satellite, don’t worry. If you have a digital in-home antenna and are able to get a picture on your screen, you don’t need to worry. But, if you have the old roof antenna or a set of “rabbit ears,” you may need to contact your television manufacturer to determine if your model television has a digital tuner. If it does not, then I would recommend you apply for the vouchers and buy yourself a digital converter box.