The federal government has set February 17, 2009 as the date when all full-power television broadcast signals will have to be sent digitally. On that date, most consumers with older, analog television sets will lose their free, over-the-air programming unless they have purchased and installed specialized signal conversion equipment.
Complicating matters further, more than 2,600 so-called "low-power" television broadcasters will be allowed to continue broadcasting their signals in analog. To continue receiving that programming, consumers will have to purchase special converter boxes that will allow analog signals to pass through to analog TV sets. Very few of those boxes are available so far, so consumers who want to continue receiving low-power programming need to be especially careful to make sure they have one of the limited number of converter box models capable of passing through analog signals.
Nearly all TVs -- whether analog or digital -- connected to cable, satellite, or one of the new telephone company fiber-optic services should continue to function as they do now.
What Do Consumers Need To Do?
A recent survey by Consumer Reports revealed a general lack of awareness about the looming digital TV transition among consumers. Even among consumers who were aware of the DTV, there was a great deal of confusion on what they should do to get ready. Many incorrectly believe their old analog sets will no longer work and should be thrown away. Others incorrectly believed they would have to buy a converter box for all of their television sets in order to continue receiving over-the-air broadcasts.
Consumer Reports and HearUsNow.org have put together a comprehensive brochure on what consumers should do to prepare for the DTV transition.
CR's Guide to Your Choices in the DTV Transition (English)
CR's Guía Para Ver Sus Opciones En La Transición A La Televisión Digital (Español)
Consumer Reports and HearUsNow.org have also put together a five-minute video on what consumers should do to prepare for the DTV transition. Click here to watch the video. (Note: A new browser window will pop up.)
How To Get Your $40 Government Coupons for DTV Converter Boxes
The federal government is now issuing $40 coupons to consumers who want to purchase signal conversion equipment so they can continue to receive free, over-the-air programming on their old analog TV sets after the digital transition date. U.S. households can request up to two $40 coupons to be used toward the purchase of up to two digital-to-analog converter boxes.
Click here to go to the official U.S. government web site for the coupon program.
Have More Questions?
Get even more practical, reliable, up-to-date information on how to deal with the DTV transition at the Consumer Reports DTV Transition web page.
Want To Share Your Story With Other Consumers?
Want to see how other consumers are dealing with the DTV transition, or share your story with others? Go to our Share Your Stories web page.
Additional Links for DTV Transition Information
To learn more about the transition to digital television, click on the links below.
Making DTV Possible
To make the transition to digital possible, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) gave each of the nation's full-power broadcasters a second channel, free of charge, so they could broadcast both digital and analog signals. In February 2009, broadcasters are to move all their programming onto the new digital channel and turn over their analog channels to the federal government.
How Will These Returned Channels Be Used?
The channels being returned to the government by broadcasters in February 2009 are located between Channel 51 and Channel 69 on the television dial, along one of the most highly coveted portions of the broadcast spectrum technically known as the 700 MHz band. Signals in this band travel farther and are able to easily penetrate buildings and other forms of interference.
Congress has directed the Federal Communications Commission to reserve about a third of the returned spectrum for public safety agencies and auction off the rest. The auction of those airwaves began in January 2008 and is expected to raise billions of dollars.
One of the most often mentioned uses for the returned spectrum has been wireless broadband, which could potentially provide a potent new competitor for existing high speed Internet providers, such as cable and phone companies. A host of other wireless applications are also being touted.