Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The End of Analog Broadcasting as We Know It

At midnight on February 17, 2009, millions of households risk loosing television reception. By law, television broadcasters nationwide must switch from the traditional method of trasnmission of analog to the new type of broadcasting that delivers movie-quality pictures and sound, more channels, and higher definition.

What's the difference between analog and digital television?

Analog, which has been used since the invention of television itself, is the traditional method of transmitting television signals . Analog is not as efficient as digital television: it uses up much more of the valuable spectrum than digital, and TV stations can only transmit one channel. Analog is susceptible to interference and “snow” that make a picture less clear.

Digital television (DTV) is an innovative new type of over-the-air broadcasting technology that enables TV stations to provide dramatically clearer pictures and better sound quality. DTV is more efficient and more flexible than the traditional broadcast. DTV makes it possible for stations to broadcast multiple channels of free programming simultaneously (called multicasting), instead of broadcasting only one channel at a time, using the same amount of spectrum.

Why the switch?

The switch to digital broadcasting will enable television stations to offer dramatically clearer pictures, better sound quality and more programming choices. Under the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 passed by Congress, over-the-air broadcast television stations are required to turn off their analog channels on February 17, 2009, and continue broadcasting exclusively in the digital format. DTV is a more flexible and efficient technology than the current analog system. The analog turn-off will also free up parts of the airwaves to provide wireless spectrum for future innovative services by entrepreneurs and emergency personel. Television stations have been preparing for the transition since the late 1990s, when they began building new facilities and airing digital channels alongside their regular analog broadcasts. Today, 1,624 full power television stations out of 1,762 stations nationwide offer digital programming in all markets across America.

Who's affected?

At least 19.6 million consumer households who receive over-the-air television signals through antennas on television sets that are equipped with analog tuners and those who do not subscribe to cable, satellite or a telephone company television service provider will be affected.

How do I switch?

Consumers will have three options for continuing their television service:

  1. Purchase a DTV converter box that will convert the digital signal into analog for an existing television set

  2. Purchase a new television set with a built-in digital tuner; or

  3. Subscribe to cable, satellite or a telephone company television service provider if all desired local broadcast stations are carried by that service.

The DTV converter box, also referred to as a set-top box, is an electronic device that makes the new digital signal viewable on an older “analog” television set. You will still need an over-the-air antenna in addition to the box. DTV converter boxes will be available for purchase in early 2008, and are expected to cost between $40 and $70. To help consumers cover the cost of the converter box, the federal government will offer up to two converter box coupons valued at $40 each to households beginning in early 2008. Each coupon may be used toward the purchase of a single DTV converter box and the coupon program will be administered by the U.S. Department of Commerce through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) http://www.ntia.doc.gov/ and also at http://www.dtv2009.gov/. With new TVs with the built-in digital converter, you will also still need an over-the-air antenna to pick up free digital broadcasting from local stations. No additional equipment is required if you decide to use paid TV such as Dish and cable.

"DTV is socialist," said Amy when asked her opinion on DTV. Allison said, "I think it's really dumb."

Hopefully this has been helpful for you with making the switch. It may seem complicated with all of the options and the rush. The switch really is simple when you break it down, it's just getting there that is the problem. Good luck. Remember February 17, 2009 is the day!

1 comment:

Vince said...

I found an excellent site; it had all the info about the Digital Transition and requesting the $40 coupon. I ordered my 2 coupons from it. http://www.digitalconverterbox.org