The Digital TV Transition
in June, 2009, TV broadcast stations in the United States must complete the technical transition to all-digital broadcasting as mandated by the FCC and Congress. TV broadcast stations include, for example, local NBC, ABC, and CBS affiliates.
This switch to all-digital broadcasting by February 17, 2009, impacts viewers who currently use an antenna (i.e., rabbit ears or rooftop antenna) to access local broadcast stations. To receive the signals after the transition, consumers have the following options
The phrase "Digital TV Transition" refers to the time period during which broadcasters are making the switch from analog to digital broadcasting. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 granted broadcasters an additional 6 megahertz of spectrum to make the transition from analog to digital TV, so that analog spectrum could eventually be returned to the government for use by public safety and other services. Congress' legislation ensures the transition is completed by February 17, 2009, at which time broadcasters must return their analog spectrum and begin broadcasting in the digital format only.
TV stations serving all markets in the United States are airing digital television programming today, although most will continue to provide analog programming through February 17, 2009. At that point, full-power TV stations will cease broadcasting on their current analog channels, and the spectrum they use for analog broadcasting will be reclaimed by the government and put to other uses.
If you currently receive analog television over the air or via an antenna, you'll need to take action to continue watching your favorite stations. TVs accessing "pay" television service such as cable or satellite aren't likely to be affected by the switch
What is the digital TV transition?
The digital TV transition refers to the time period during which broadcasters are making the switch from analog to digital broadcasting. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 granted broadcasters an additional 6 megahertz of spectrum to make the transition from analog to digital TV, so that analog spectrum could be returned for use by public safety and other services.
Congress enacted legislation that would ensure the transition is completed by June, 2009. At that time, the nation's broadcast TV stations will begin broadcasting exclusively in digital. This means that any consumer receiving broadcast TV over the air on an older, analog TV must take some action for that TV to continue receiving programs from the local TV stations. Those options include obtaining a new digital-to-analog converter; subscribing to cable TV or other multichannel video service, or replacing the analog TV with a new one equipped with a digital TV tuner. Cox has committed to converting the digital signals to analog so that any TV hooked to cable can receive the broadcast stations for at least three years after the deadline..
Why is government implementing the digital transition?
There are some compelling reasons why local TV stations across the country -- including those in your area -- are required by the U.S. government to change to digital broadcasting. Changing over to a digital format will reduce the amount of signal spectrum the nation's TV broadcasting system uses, freeing up extra capacity for first-responders such as local police and fire departments to enhance the way they react to emergencies. In addition, changing to digital broadcasting lets TV stations send clearer signals through the air. Picture and sound quality will be better. TV stations can even use the new digital technologies to transmit high-definition TV (HDTV) signals, and they can introduce new channels. So there are benefits to all Americans, including TV viewers, from the digital conversion.
Will consumers be able to watch digital TV on their existing analog sets?
All Cox customers will be able to watch these stations on any TV hooked up to cable. Cox Digital Cable customers already receive these channels in digital format, and Cox is committed to converting these broadcast channels for its analog customers for at least three years after this deadline. Non-cable customers can subscribe to our service or obtain an digital-to-analog converter box from many retail outlets beginning in June 2008.
What should I do first to prepare for the TV digital transition?
First, take an inventory of the TVs in your home. Even if you're a cable customer, you may have one or more TVs that aren't hooked up to cable. These secondary TVs are likely to be "analog" -- that is, they probably don't have the digital tuners that are featured in all of the "digital" TVs available today. These older TVs won't be able to tune in the digital signals that stations will start broadcasting in June 2009.
How do I know my TV is digital-ready?
Typically, TVs purchased in the last few years that are 25 inches or larger have digital tuners embedded so a separate converter is not needed to receive and display the over-the-air digital signals. Check your owner's manual or contact the manufacturer to be certain. Here are some general guidelines:
If you bought your TV set before 1998, it probably doesn't have a digital tuner.
If you bought a big-screen, projection TV between 1998 and 2004, it's possible there's a built-in digital tuner inside. But chances aren't great. Only a limited percentage of projection TVs (and generally only those 42 inches in diameter or larger) included digital tuners before 2004.
If you've purchased a new TV since 2004, your chances of having a built-in digital tuner improve dramatically. Starting in 2004, many of the TVs sold at popular electronics stores have featured digital tuners that will let you receive the new digital over-the-air broadcasts starting in February 2009. But be aware: It's not a sure thing. Even some of the newer TVs are purely display monitors that lack the internal circuitry needed to pick up digital broadcasts. Usually these TVs have been advertised as "HD-ready" or "HDTV monitors." That means they can display digital and high-definition signals, but they need help getting those signals in the first place. You'll still need a special converter or a cable TV connection.
When will the DTV transition be complete?
TV stations serving all markets in the United States are currently airing digital TV programming, although most will continue to provide analog programming through the deadline -- June, 2009. At that point, full-power TV stations will cease broadcasting on their current analog channels, and the spectrum they use for analog broadcasting will be reclaimed by the government and put to other uses. Cox is committed to converting these digital broadcast TV signals to analog for at least three years after this deadline, so all Cox customers will continue to receive these broadcast channels on every television hooked up to cable.
What do I need to do to receive digital signals?
If you don't have cable or digital cable, you will need to subscribe to cable, purchase a digital to analog converter or purchase a new digital TV.
Cable subscribers will not need to take any action to receive digital programming. For at least three years after this deadline, most cable companies will continue to offer analog broadcast signals to customers who do not receive digital services.
TVs purchased after March 1st 2007 plus those purchased in recent years that are 25 inches or larger have the necessary technology for viewing over-the-air digital programming already embedded and do not require a converter to access digital broadcast signals.
Will I need a new TV if I have an analog TV?
When broadcast stations stop analog service, you will still be able to use your analog TV to view over-the-air broadcast content if your TV is hooked up to cable, or if you purchase a special digital-to-analog converter box that will be available at retail locations.
Who will pay for the special converter that analog customers will need?
If you decide to purchase a converter, the government will help you pay for the necessary equipment. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is overseeing a coupon program to help offset consumer costs related to the digital transition. Beginning January 1, 2008, consumers can apply for up to two $40 coupons to be used towards the purchase of a digital-to-analog converter. Coupons, available on a first come, first serve basis, will be mailed to eligible households and will expire after 90 days of issuance. Consumers may call toll free 1-888-DTV-2009 1-888-388-2009) in English and Spanish for updates.
Note: Coupon program details, frequently asked questions and a program brochure are online: http://www.dtvtransition.org
When will the converter boxes be available?
The converter boxes are slated to be available for purchase in mid-February 2008. Several national retail chains have already committed to selling the boxes. They include: Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Circuit City, Target, Sears, Kmart and Radio Shack.
Why can't we have both DTV and the TV system we have currently?
Broadcast and wireless services depend on the use of the airwaves. DTV technology is much more efficient than the current analog technology and will allow the broadcast of more program content using less broadcast spectrum. Transitioning to digital broadcasting will make resources available for public safety and other new and innovative services for American consumers.
For more information visit www.dtvtransition.org or call 1-888-388-2009 .
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