Yesterday, the United States Senate voted, unanimously, to delay the upcoming transition from analog to digital television broadcasting. Originally scheduled for February 17, the Senate approved delaying the the transition until June 12. The measure approving the delay will now go before the House Commerce Committee, and could go before the full House for a vote as soon as today.
We receive our television signal via Dish Network satellite, so we don’t have to worry about the conversion. Those who receive television via over-the-air antenna, however, may need to purchase an analog-to-digital conversion box.
From the DTV.GOV Digital TV Transition FAQs
What do I need to do to be ready for the end of analog TV broadcasting?
Because Congress mandated that the last day for full-power television stations to broadcast in analog would be February 17, 2009, over-the-air TV broadcasts will be in digital only after that date. If you have one or more televisions that receive free over-the-air television programming (with a roof-top antenna or “rabbit ears” on the TV), the type of TV you own is very important. A digital television (a TV with an internal digital tuner) will allow you to continue to watch free over-the-air programming after February 17, 2009. However, if you have an analog television, you will need a digital-to-analog converter box to continue to watch broadcast television on that set. This converter box will also enable you to see any additional multicast programming that your local stations are offering.
To help consumers with the DTV transition, the Government established the Digital-to-Analog Converter Box Coupon Program. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), a part of the Department of Commerce, administers this program. Every U.S. household is eligible to receive up to two coupons, worth $40 each, toward the purchase of eligible digital-to-analog converter boxes. Beginning in January of 2008, the NTIA has begun accepting applications for coupons. The coupons may only be used for eligible converter boxes sold at participating consumer electronics retailers, and the coupons must be used at the time of purchase. (Please note that these coupons will expire 90 days after mailing). Manufacturers estimate that digital-to-analog converter boxes will sell from $40 to $70 each. This is a one-time cost. For more information on the Digital-to-Analog Converter Box Coupon Program, visit www.dtv2009.gov, or call 1-888-388-2009 (voice) or 1-877-530-2634 (TTY).
Cable and satellite TV subscribers with analog TVs hooked up to their cable or satellite service should not be affected by the February 17, 2009 cut-off date for full-power analog broadcasting.
The government’s website still reads February 17. Assuming the bill is approved by the House, which seems very likely, the new date should read June 12. If you have an analog television, and you receive television via over-the-air antenna, you might want to think about requesting your converter box coupon. Apparently, there are already 2.6 million people on the waiting list for their coupon.
One interesting side-note. If the delay is passed, it could end up costing PBS stations, which receive much of their funding from tax payers, as much as 22 million dollars.
I actually installed a converter box for one of my family members. It only took me about two minutes to hook the box up the antenna and the television, and a minute or two more to program it. Interestingly, each digital channel actually consisted of two “channels” – one with regular programming and a second channel with news or weather.
So, what do you think? Is this a good idea, considering the backlog of coupon requests? Or, when the government sets a date, should they stick by it, no matter what?