Digital Tv

The sky is not falling, but in just a few weeks, over-the-air TV signals as we have come to know them will cease to exist. As vinyl records gave way to cassettes, cassettes to CDs, smoke signals to cell phones, analog TV signals are being phased out for digital ones.

Like most laws in America, it was Congress that mandated the conversion to all-digital television broadcasting, also known as the digital television (DTV) transition. All-digital broadcasting, they tell us, will free up frequencies for public safety communications such as police, fire and emergency rescue.

With hundreds of TV channels and the saturation of high-definition television sets, digital is a more efficient transmission technology that allows broadcast stations to offer improved picture and sound quality. These new signals will also offer more programming options for consumers through multiple broadcast streams, called multicasting.

But what does this conversion mean for your TV viewing habits?

Quite simply, if you currently subscribe to cable, satellite or IPTV (i.e. AT&T U-verse), you should be good to go. You’re probably already getting digital signals through your cable or satellite box. The TV you are using now will continue to work the way it always has.

But if you have an older analog TV which uses so-called “rabbit ears” or other kinds of over-the-air antennas, you are going to need a digital converter to tune-in the new digital over-the-air TV signals.

So here are your choices:
· a) Keep your 30-year-old Sony Trinitron and subscribe to a cable/sat/IPTV service;
· b) Keep that old set with the broken knobs but good picture and get a converter box; or
· c) Buy a new TV set that receives digital signals.

An interesting point to make here–you don’t need to go out and buy an HDTV. High-def TV sets receive these digital signals but there are cheaper options. Several manufacturers make sets with built-in digital tuners (integrated DTV) for a few hundred dollars. Most HDTV sets cost several hundreds of dollars and well into the thousands.

According to a recent study by Nielson Co., about 14 million consumers with older TV sets who don’t have subscription services will need digital-to-analog converters boxes. This is the least expensive option to comply with the transition. These small boxes will hook into older sets and convert the new digital signals into analog signals that your current older TV set can display.

These digital converter boxes are already on the market and cost upwards of $50. But thanks to our wonderful U.S. government, they are offsetting the cost by issuing up to two $40 coupons per household. To receive these coupons, go to this website to apply for them, or call 1-888-DTV-2009. When they arrive via snail mail, take them to a local store and buy a converter box. Note: These coupons are currently on hold due to our wonderful government not appropriating enough funds for this project.

If you have figured out your situation with your TV set, there are potential other concerns about peripherals plugged in to your set. VCRs, DVD players, camcorders and video games will continue to work, even if they are only analog-capable. However, such equipment may not provide digital-quality picture and sound. Manufacturers are producing a number of different connectors to hook equipment together and improve picture and sound quality. Check with your equipment retailer to determine the types of connectors that will work with your equipment.

The FCC and local broadcast stations have launched public awareness campaigns to alert consumers about the February 17, 2009, conversion date. If you don’t know about this switch until now you probably don’t watch TV anyway.

So act soon, but remember the sky is not falling! But if you miss one episode of LOST due to this switch, things may really hit the fan.

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