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Before you read…here is an NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) YouTube snippet explaining very nicely what this switch to digital means.
If you have an antenna on the roof, or use rabbit ears, and have an old television, February 17, 2009 may be the last day you can watch TV.
This is happening because TV broadcasting is changing from the original “analog” signal to a much more efficient “digital” signal. The change to digital has significant benefits including freeing up frequencies for use by fire and police, providing a clearer picture, allowing the broadcasters to send additional information over the same channel, and greatly improved sound. The disadvantage is that millions of people may lose service as their older TV’s will now become obsolete.
Note: If you currently subscribe to cable or satellite, or own a newer TV with a built in “digital tuner” (even if you are connected to a rooftop antenna or use rabbit ears), you do not need to worry, your service should continue.
If you are among the millions who use an antenna and have an old TV, do not despair, there are several options to keep your TV reception.
You can purchase a new TV with an included digital tuner and connect that to your antenna or rabbit ears. I saw some very nice TV’s at Best Buy with digital tuners. The cost was size dependent ranging from $99.00 to $299.00. The picture quality was very good on each of these sets.
You can keep your TV signal by subscribing to cable (Comcast in Tracy) or satellite (DirecTV or DISH) or other service. This, however, will require a monthly payment that varies depending on the type of service you subscribe to.
You can purchase a “converter box” (see picture at the top of this blog) that will be available soon at stores such as Best Buy, Circuit City, and Radio Shack. This box is installed between your TV and antenna and allows you to use your old TV after the transition to digital. The box will cost between $70.00 and $100.00 but, you can sign up for a coupon worth $40.00 off that price. Your cost will then be between $30.00 and $60.00.
Andrew Lehwalder, Home Theater Rep at Best Buy in Tracy, tells us that Best Buy should have the converter box available in June or July 2008 and that it is expected to cost $49.99 (preliminary information subject to change) with the coupon. Barry Kinmore, Manager of Radio Shack on Tracy Blvd, says his store expects the converter box in February or March of 2008 but does not yet have cost information. Radio Shack will also honor the coupon.
Here is what you can do to get the $40 coupon for the converter box (there is a max limit of 2 coupons per household).
- You can call 1-888-388-2009.
- You can go on-line at http://www.dtv2009.gov and click on the “Apply for a Coupon” link.Once you fill out the form you will get a reference number and the coupon to be sent you in the mail in late February or early March.You then have 90 days to use it.
- Best Buy has a copy of the coupon form to fill out.You can send that in by mail to: P.O. Box 2000, Portland, OR 97208-2000 or Fax it to: 1-877-388-4632.Radio Shack, on Tracy Blvd., will help you go on-line, in the store, to fill out the on-line coupon request.
Installation of the Converter Box
Best Buy will have help available via the Geek Squad or trained sales people. Radio Shack is not yet sure what assistance they would be offering but the sales people in the store will be trained and should be able to assist you. YeOldeTechy can also help and I am sure other technicians in Tracy will know how to complete the installation.
I hope to write a follow-up to this article after I get the converter box and install it. How the installation is completed, and what parts you may need, depends on your TV and antenna configuration. For example, my 35 year old TV with rabbit ears needs a “matching transformer” that will connect the TV’s two wire antenna connection to the coax cable connector on the converter box, and I will also need a short coax cable to complete the connection.
If you have more questions, I will post additional information on the YeOldeTechy Blog and Web Site. See the Tracy Press Blog section for a link. Or you can call me at 836-0472.
Caveat: This is preliminary information and may change as the year progresses.
Is Digital TV the same as HDTV?
Not necessarily. High Definition TV is digital, but, digital TV may or may not be High Definition.
How can I find out if my TV has a digital tuner?
Not easily. If you have the owners manual, look in there. There may be a label on your TV telling you that is has a “digital tuner”. If you purchased the TV after 2004, chances are good it has a digital tuner. Before 2004, chances are it does not have a digital tuner, but, it might. My 35 year old TV definitely needs a converter box, as does my newer Sony Wega 35” TV. You may be able to find information on the web for your specific model. One sure way to find out, if you use rabbit ears or an antenna, is to see if you still have TV reception on Feb 18, 2009, but, that is not the wisest choice. J
Do I need to buy a new antenna?
No. But, be aware that TV reception in Tracy may be on the fringe. If that is the case, the digital signal will not work. If you have a nice clear picture now, it will probably work fine. If your picture is fuzzy now, you may need to upgrade your antenna if you decide to stay with an antenna.