February 17, 2009: The Digital TV Deadline
Author: Josh Maronde
Editor: Shawn Knight
Date: 12-06-2007
Discuss: View Comments
Digital TV Deadline Questions and Answers

Will it Affect You?

-- If you have cable or satellite service (and receive local channels as part of your service), then your analog TV will not be affected by the DTV deadline.

-- If you cancel your service after 2/17/2009 then your analog TV will not work without additional hardware.

-- If you want to view free over-the-air signals after the transition deadline then you will still need an antenna that is able to receive UHF signals (Channels 14-51).

-- If you currently use an antenna to watch TV then that antenna probably receives UHF signals. You do NOT have to purchase a special "Digital" antenna as you may have seen at many retail stores. Rabbit-ear antennas will work just fine, but the antenna must be able to receive a strong signal in order for your television to produce a picture.

How to Check your TV

Since all full-power TV stations will be broadcasting a digital signal, your TV must also have a Digital Tuner. All televisions imported or shipped across state lines in the United States after March 1, 2007 are required to have a Digital Tuner built-in. Starting May 25, 2007, TV sellers are required to disclose at the register and on a TV's display model that the unit does not have a Digital Tuner. You can check your TV or TV's manual for the following words or letters to find out if it has a built-in Digital Tuner: "DTV", "ATSC", "HDTV", "Integrated Digital Tuner" or "Digital Tuner Built-In". "Receiver" might be used instead of "Tuner". If you see these letters or words on your TV or in its manual, then (with an antenna) your TV is ready for the Digital TV era.

Early adopters of large screen TVs may find the following on their TVs or in manuals: "HDTV Ready", "Digital Monitor", "HDTV Monitor" or "Digital Ready". These terms mean that although your TV can display a digital picture, you will still need a Digital Tuner in the form of a set-top box which could cost around $1,000. Optionally, you could use that money towards cable or satellite service and get a digital set-top box for little or no cost to you and have more channels to choose from.

Digital-to-Analog Converter Box

The majority of Americans will not find any of the above letters or words on their TV or in their TV's manual. If your TV falls into this category then you will need to purchase a Digital-to-Analog converter box or buy a new Digital TV. The cost of a converter box is probably less than what you may think. Manufacturers estimate that an over-the-air Digital-to-Analog converter box will cost between $50-$70.

But wait, theres more! Starting in January of 2008, the US government will begin accepting requests for over-the-air converter box coupons worth $40. All US households will be eligible to request two $40 coupons that will make the DTV transition less expensive. According to Best Buy's website, converters will go on sale in early 2008. You only have until March 31, 2009 to request a coupon and the coupons can not be combined.

The Time Is Now

The Digital TV era is fast approaching. Make sure you are ready when Uncle Sam flips the analog switch off and clicks the digital button on. Now might be the best time to consider purchasing that flat screen you have always wanted. Prices are at record lows and Digital TV supply is high.

One D"ooms"-Day scenario for February 17, 2009 could be that since all analog TVs will require a Digital-to-Analog converter box, the manufacturers of these devices could charge a lot more than the estimated $50-$70. If that were to happen, I would imagine that many consumers would opt for a new Digital TV in order to receive better picture and sound. A mass adoption of Digital TVs could then cause a massive shortage that would surely make retailers raise prices. This scenario is highly unlikely but not impossible.

A much more realistic scenario with the DTV deadline is that many non-English speaking households will not find out about this transition until 12 a.m. February 17, 2009. Take a moment to imagine turning on your TV one day to find static on every channel. Can you say "mass confusion"?

Overall, the DTV era will be a very positive thing. Improved sound and picture quality will be realized by those who upgrade to a Digital TV. Pictures will no longer have "ghosts" or "snow". Emergency personnel will be able to communicate more effectively, the deficit will decrease and much needed wireless broadband services will be available to consumers. Will you be ready for DTV?

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More Information about February 17, 2009 and the Digital Television Transition can be found at the following links.

Coupon Information

More DTV Information

Title III of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, Public Law 109-171

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