Digital TV Guide

If you don’t pay for cable or satellite TV and instead get local channels through your TV’s antennae (either an antennae outside your home or “rabbit ears” on top of your set), then you had better mark February 17, 2009 on your calendar. Starting on Feb. 17, you will no longer be able to receive a signal. Relax, it’s okay! With just 4 very easy steps, you can make sure that you are totally unaffected and can continue watching television for free as you are used to and with a higher quality digital signal!

Here’s some quick background information on what’s happening. Television stations currently broadcast their signals in analog and digital forms. But beginning on February 17, 2009, the analog broadcasts will stop. This is referred to as the digital-to-analog or “DTV” conversion. Analog broadcasts are the ones that are received by your TV’s antennae/rabbit ears, thus if you don’t take the necessary actions before Feb. 17 2009, you won’t be able to receive a signal.

Luckily, by purchasing a “digital-to-analog converter box”, you can continue to watch TV as you had previously, without adding cable or satellite monthly service. A digital-to-analog converter box sounds complicated, but it’s actually very easy for anyone to purchase and setup takes just a few minutes. AND, with a $40-off coupon from the Federal Government… the box is FREE in some cases!! We will walk you through 4 very easy to follow steps for preparing for the DTV conversion and making sure you are set up correctly.

  1. Determine Your Need
  2. The first thing you may be wondering is “Am I affected by the conversion?” The easiest way to determine this is to answer the following questions:

    - Do I have cable or satellite monthly TV service?
    - Was my TV made after March 1, 2007?

    If you answered “YES” to either of those questions, then you are not affected. The DTV conversion process will have no impact on cable or satellite TV customers. So you are in the clear! AND, all TV’s manufactured after March 1, 2007 were required to have a digital tuner built-in, thus no conversion box is necessary.

    If you answered “NO” to both questions and you have an outside antennae or rabbit ears on top of your set, then you WILL be affected and will need to purchase a set top digital-to-analog converter box or subscribe to a monthly TV Service. So keep reading!

    Note:
    For consumers looking to upgrade to a monthly TV service we recommend Verizon Fios. For more information on Verizon Fios check out the list of Verizon Fios Deals. This comprehensive resource should help you determine which plan fits your needs the best. If you upgrade to a subscription based monthly TV Service then you will not need to buy a DTV Converter.

  3. Get a $40 Coupon
  4. You will need a converter box for each TV in your house that is not hooked up to cable or satellite. The good news is that the federal government is providing 2 $40-off coupons per household, which means that you can get 2 converter boxes at a very deep discount, or in some cases, FOR FREE!

    You must apply for a coupon in order to receive one, and you can apply to receive 2 coupons (the maximum allowed) with a single application. Here are the ways in which you can apply for a coupon:

    • Online - apply online for your coupons here: https://www.dtv2009.gov/ApplyCoupon.aspx
    • Over the Phone - call this number for the Coupon Program’s 24-hour hotline: 1-888-DTV-2009 (1-888-388-2009).
    • By Mail - Some local community centers and stores may have applications available. If you pick one up there, mail it to the following address:
      PO BOX 2000
      Portland, OR 97208-2000.
    • By Fax - Or you can fax it to the following number: 1-877-DTV-4ME2 (1-877-388-4632)
    • Finally , deaf or hard of hearing callers may dial 1-877-530-2634 (English/TTY) or 1-866-495-1161 (Spanish/TTY). TTY Service is available from 9 AM - 9 PM Eastern Time Monday through Friday.
      Your coupon or coupons should arrive at your home address within a few weeks of sending in your application.

    Here are a few important notes about the coupons:

    • The coupon will not be an actual paper coupon that clip from newspapers, it will be a plastic gift card, the kind that are used frequently now at stores like Best Buy, Home Depot, Target, etc.
    • Coupons expire within 90 days of issuance! That means that once you receive your coupons, you have roughly 90 days to use them before they will no longer be accepted. Do yourself a favor and get a conversion box within a few days of receiving a coupon.
    • There is a limited supply of coupons! There are 22.25 million coupons available to all U.S. households. Once those coupons have been used, there will be an additional 11.25 million coupons available only to households that solely receive their TV broadcasts over-the-air using an antenna. So get on the ball and get yourself a coupon while they are still available!
    • The last date that an application will be accepted for a coupon is March 31, 2009. Of course the conversion date is February 17, 2009, so you should aim to have your coupon application in ahead of the deadline.

  5. Buy a Converter Box
  6. Once you have your coupon, you will need to purchase a box. Many different retailers are already selling DTV conversion boxes from many different manufacturers. Amazon.com, Best Buy, Circuit City, Radio Shack, Wal-Mart, Costco, Sam’s, BJ’s and Target are all retailers that have conversion boxes available. Most are priced between $50 and $70.

    Here’s a link to the full list of the converter boxes in the US: http://www.afterdawn.com/hardware/category.cfm/dtv_converters?feature_627=1

    It might be wise to wait until the summer 2008 to purchase a converter as Dish Network has just announced a converter box that will be available in June 2008 for only $40! That means it is essentially free with your Federal Government coupon. Here’s the link to news updates on the Dish Network DTV converter: http://www.dishnetwork.com/digitaltransition/index.shtml. The exact date in June 2008 when it will begin to be sold has not yet been announced, but it should be available everywhere Dish Network products are sold (Target, etc.)

    Also, if you haven’t recently upgraded your TV antennae, now might be a good time as you will get much better reception with a newer antennae that is well-suited for the signals available in your area. Here is a link that will tell you the right kind of antennae to purchase for maximizing the clarity of your digital television signal: http://www.antennaweb.org/aw/Address.aspx

  7. Install Your Converter Box
  8. This part is too easy! Basically your current setup is a cable running from your TV antennae directly into your TV. Unplug the end that is plugged into your TV and plug it into the back of the DTV converter box where it says “IN”. Then take the cable that comes with your converter box and plug 1 end into your TV and the other into the converter box where it says “OUT”.

    Plug the power cords on your Converter Box and TV into a power outlet, and turn on your TV and Converter Box. Using the instructions that come with your Converter Box, tune your TV to channel 3 or 4. Using the remote that comes with your Converter Box, follow the on-screen set-up guide to scan for available DTV channels, and you should be good to go! Here’s a link that provides more detailed instructions in case you run into trouble: http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/setup-converterbox.html

    This is a basic primer on the lowest cost way to get yourself ready for the DTV conversion. There are a few other options which we cover in other parts of this site, so make sure to check those out as well!