DTV Transition: FAQs
Here's a list of some common questions and answers related to the analog-to-digital transition, coming on June 12, 2009.
June 08, 2009 by Kim Wilson


I am a cable/satellite customer. How will the transition affect me?
Cable and satellite subscribers can check with their providers before June 12, 2009, to see how they are handling the transition. However, TVs connected to cable, satellite or other pay TV service will not require a separate TV converter box. There should be no additional equipment required nor should you notice any disruption or change in your service.

Do I automatically have DTV if I am a cable or satellite subscriber?
You may have DTV if you subscribe to the digital package and get digital programming.  But, digital cable and satellite service aren’t necessarily “DTV.” Your cable or satellite system may be using digital technology as a more efficient way of delivering programming to your analog TV set. If you have an analog television set, then you aren’t viewing true DTV, even though the signal you’re watching may be somewhat improved. In order to view true DTV and enjoy all the attributes of digital television service, you must view television signals on a new DTV set. 

Similarly, in order to view programs in high-definition (HDTV), you must be equipped with a TV set capable of displaying pictures in high definition. Your cable or satellite set-top box or the CableCARD from your cable company must provide HDTV channels. Otherwise, you must have an antenna that can receive digital HDTV signals over the air.  Check with your cable or satellite provider if you have questions about your service.

My cable operator offers a digital cable package. Is this the same as HDTV?
No. “Digital cable” and high definition programming on cable are not the same. If you want to watch HDTV programming on cable, you will need to subscribe to your cable provider’s HDTV package and view the programming on an HDTV set. You may also need a set-top box or other equipment to view HDTV programming. Check with your cable provider to find out what kinds of programming you can receive, and what equipment you need to receive it.

If I am a satellite subscriber, does this mean I am receiving HDTV?
Not necessarily. If you want to watch HDTV programming on satellite, you will need to subscribe to your provider’s HDTV package and view the programming on an HDTV set. You may also need to change your current set-top box and satellite antenna to view HDTV programming. Contact DirectTV and Dish network for questions about what you will need to receive HDTV programming.

Does my cable box work as a digital converter box?
Technically yes. However, if you are currently using an older analog TV, you may want to check with your provider to ensure that the existing cable set-top box you are using will accept the digital signals and convert them to analog.

If I have a cable or satellite set-top box do I need a converter box too?
No. The only people who need a converter box are individuals that only receive TV broadcasts via antenna.

As a cable customer with an analog TV, will I have to buy or rent any special equipment from the cable company because of the transition? If so, how much will it cost?
First, it’s important to know that the June 12, 2009 deadline for the digital television transition only applies to full-power broadcast stations. Cable companies are not required by the government to transition their systems to digital, and can continue to deliver channels to their customers in analog. In fact, cable companies are required by FCC rules to continue offering local broadcast stations to their customers in analog as long as they offer any analog service. This requirement will continue for at least three years after June 12, 2009. The Commission will decide in 2011 whether the requirement should be continued beyond February 17, 2012. This means that customers who receive analog cable service (without a cable set-top box) will be able to continue to do so until the FCC requires cable companies transition to digital broadcasting.

However, since digital broadcasting is much more efficient than analog, some cable companies may decide to transition their systems from analog to digital delivery sooner than later. If a cable company goes all-digital (i.e. stops all analog transmissions), it must ensure that its analog customers can continue to watch their local broadcast stations. This may require customers with analog televisions to get a set-top box. If the cable company provides the customer with a set-top box, there could be an additional cost to you. You should contact your cable provider to ask if a set-top box will be needed, when it will be needed, and if there will be a cost.

Will my cable bill go up because of this switch?
The cost of service shouldn’t change, as the transition should not effect how the cable company transmits their programming. However, if you are currently receiving cable without a set-top box and the cable company switches to an all-digital format, you may need to get a set-top box. You should contact your cable provider to ask if a set-top box will be needed, when it will be needed, and if there will be a cost.

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