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Digital Television Transition Approaching

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June 12, 2009 is the final day that full-power television stations will broadcast in an analog over-the-air signal. The date was originally set for February 17, but due to broadcasters who needed more time and congressmen who felt the public needed more time to understand the transition, the deadline was extended until next month.

This also has provided companies more time to create confusion in an effort to sell products and services.

Cable companies like Cablevision use the digital transition to try to convince holdouts still using antennas that the best way to avoid a problem is simply to sign up for a yearly contract, with a special “low-cost program.” They might be right. If you have cable or satellite service, you will be immune to the digital transition. Virtually all cable companies serve digital signals into homes now. But the low-cost program offered might provide you with fewer channels than you have now as a customer of free, over-the-air broadcast television.

Retailers use the digital transition as an excuse to convince consumers that it’s time to upgrade to a high-definition television. I routinely talk to people who are convinced that they need to buy a high-definition television in order to watch any television after the transition date. This was never true. A digital television is not the same as a high-definition television broadcast. You can watch digital television on your older cathode ray tube (CRT) television. You do not need to buy a new television, even if your old box has only an analog tuner.

At the very minimum, you will need to buy a digital converter box if your television has only an analog tuner. There are coupons available, two per family if you apply for the coupon before July 31, to help defray the cost of two converter boxes. If you buy a converter box, keep this in mind: Even after the digital transition deadline, some low-powered stations may continue broadcasting in analog only. If you want to receive these stations after the transition, you must buy a converter box which offers a feature called “pass-through,” which allows analog and digital signals to be sent to your television.

If you use antennas to receive analog television now, the same antennas will receive digital television. Digital signals are weaker, though, so you may find in order to receive digital reception that is comparable to your old analog reception, you’ll need an outdoor antenna.

There is more information from the FCC and the Department of Commerce runs the coupon program.

Updated December 20, 2011 and originally published May 20, 2009. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar MyJourney

Flexo,

I know this has little to do with the post, but I will tell anyone who will listen and let me rant…I HATE CABLEVISION! They are the worst run company ever, and now they started blocking channels if you don’t have a box in every room!

/rant

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avatar Craig

How do you feel about this? It personally doesn’t affect me and won’t affect the majority of people. From a marketing perspective I would think cable companies would basically give away services for as cheap as possible to hook people in. Maybe give them free service for 6 months, etc, that way people are in and then will lead to the normal rates after, gaining new customers.

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avatar Craig

@myjourney I agree, coming from LI Cablevision is the worse service and has ridiculous prices and the Dolan’s are greedy owners and for me have ruined the Knicks franchise.

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avatar Valerie

One thing that no one mentions is the side effect of the digital change-over, regardless of how you do it, if you have a TV set that does not have a digital tuner. i.e., it has nothing to do with whether you are using Cable and its various boxes, or an antenna with a digital box.

We now have the Comcast setup and although OnDemand is somewhat handy, we no longer can use our VCR to tape one program while we watch another. Due to its not having a Digital Tuner, we can only tape the channel that is set on the digital box and ergo, only tape what we are watching.

In addition, if we want to tape something that in the future when we are not watching, we have to remember to (1) set the VCR programmer to Channel 3 and (2) set the digital box to the channel we want to record and then leave it on, with the set off.

Even DVD recorders that don’t have their own tuners have to be used this way. The only way out is something like TiVo, which is expensive. And this is no time for most people to go out and have to buy expensive peripherals to do what they could do before Digital at no cost!

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