June 07, 2007
| by John Pike
Franklin Roosevelt said in much more trying times, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
With regard to the scheduled cessation of analog television broadcasts on Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2009—a date that will not live in infamy—there won’t even be any fear to fear. For many consumers, the day will pass without them even knowing that analog television broadcasts are themselves, history. Your old analog TV will not only still work, but will work better.
By February 2009, the U.S. government will require all television broadcasts to be digital, a superior means of TV. All venues in the United States already have at least some programs with digital broadcasts. With a digital television set, this newer form of TV broadcasting will provide an improved picture and sound, along with more programs.
According to the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), there will be some 25 million analog television sets (out of about 285 million total) still receiving their signal over the air in the United States by 2009. So if you’re among those who plan on using rabbit ears in 2009, you will need to purchase a digital set-top converter box to transform over-the-air digital signals into an analog format your old television can use. Your UHF and VHF antennas will continue to work.
Coupons for Converter Boxes
And here’s why there’s nothing to fear: Starting Jan. 1, 2008, all American households will be eligible to request one or two $40 coupons to defray the cost of purchasing up to two digital-to-analog converter boxes. These converter boxes, which are similar to cable boxes, are in development.
Your television experience will improve using an analog set along with the converter box. You will have access to more channels and programs, including the ones you already have. Electronic programming guides will also be available through converter boxes, says John Taylor, vice president for public affairs and communications, LG Electronics.
In addition, the spectrum freed up after the digital transition will provide extra space for channels dedicated to emergency response information, Taylor says.
Your picture could be clearer with your analog television and converter box because digital broadcasts do not produce snow when traveling long distances. Digital signals are transmitted using computer code –- ones and zeroes—which means they are less susceptible to interference. So you may not have to play with the antennas as often. And all converter boxes will provide remote control access for changing channels, so avoiding those commercials will become much easier.
Best Option: Digital TV
Although converter boxes will improve your analog performance, to experience the full benefits of digital television, you will need a digital TV.
Perhaps the best advantage of having a digital TV will be the vastly improved picture. Digital television comes in a few levels of picture quality, including High-Definition Television (HDTV), Enhanced-Definition Television (EDTV) and Standard-Definition Television (SDTV). HDTV is DTV at its best, and it has the added benefit of 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound audio.