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I Want My Digital TV!  
In 2009, television enters a new frontier…

 

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FinancialIt’s been some time since consumers experienced the last big innovation in television (actually since the introduction of color television and its slow growth over the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s). Since then, tabletop models slowly replaced console televisions, but for the most part the television, our daily source of family entertainment, has been stuck in a rut. However, all that will change on February 17th, 2009 when television stations in the United States fully convert to broadcasting a digital-only signal– bringing all television viewers high-definition or HD television. The process began in 1996 when the United States Congress authorized the distribution of an additional broadcast channel to each broadcast television station. This enabled broadcasters to continue transmitting their traditional analog broadcast while they simultaneously developed their higher-quality digital broadcast. The existence of a digital signal enables television stations to broadcast programming with picture and sound that are significantly improved over that which they could provide with the old analog technology. The digital signal is also a more efficient way to send programming, so television stations can now offer viewers a super sharp “high definition” (HD) digital program or multiple “standard definition” (SD) programs, at the same time. The result is more programming choices for viewers.

An added benefit of switching from analog to digital broadcasting is that the move will free up parts of the broadcast spectrum for public safety communications (such as police, fire departments, and rescue squads). Additionally, some of the spectrum has been auctioned to companies that will use the additional airwaves to provide consumers with more advanced wireless telephone and computer services (such as wireless broadband).

The transition to this new age in television will occur on February 17, 2009. At that time, television stations in the United States will be broadcasting in digital only. Although the official date to switch is still several months away, broadcasters have been gradually making the switch for a number of years now and high-definition television sets have been the high-tech toy of choice for those who want to be early adopters of the new technology and its stunning picture quality.

FinancialFor viewers who have one or more televisions that receive free over-the-air programming (with a roof-top antenna or “rabbit ears” on the TV), the type of TV you own is very important. A digital television (a TV with an internal digital tuner) will allow you to continue to watch free over-the-air programming after February 17, 2009. However, if you have an analog television, you will need a digital-to-analog converter box to continue to watch broadcast television on that set. This converter box will also enable you to see any additional multicast programming that your local stations are offering.

To help consumers with the DTV transition, the government established the Digital-to-Analog Converter Box Coupon Program. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), a part of the Department of Commerce, administers this program. Every U.S. household is eligible to receive up to two coupons, worth $40 each, toward the purchase of eligible digital-to-analog converter boxes. Coupons were made available in January of 2008. The coupons may only be used for eligible converter boxes sold at participating consumer electronics retailers, and the coupons must be used at the time of purchase. Manufacturers estimate that digital-to-analog converter boxes will sell from $40 to $70 each. This is a one-time cost. For more information on the Digital-to-Analog Converter Box Coupon Program, visit the NTIA’s Web site at www.dtv2009.gov, or call 1-888-388-2009 (voice) or 1-877-530-2634 (TTY).

FinancialCable and satellite television subscribers with analog televisions hooked up to their cable or satellite service should not be affected by the February 17, 2009, cut-off date for full-power analog broadcasting, but should contact their provider to find out anything that is needed to be prepared for the February deadline.

There are many sources of information about the digital transition but one of the best is the government’s website www.dtv.gov. It contains information about DTV, questions consumers should ask when purchasing new television sets, what programs are available in DTV, and much more. You can also call 1-888-CALL-FCC.

Thanks to digital broadcasting and high-definition capable televisions, home entertainment will never be the same. And with the government chipping in to help with the conversion, every home will have access to a quality viewing experience rivaling that you would find in a movie theater. So fire up the popcorn maker and grab a comfortable place on the sofa—it’s showtime!

Sources:
Federal Communications Commission—www.fcc.gov
Federal Communications Commission, Digital TV Transition— www.dtv.gov

Articles are provided for the general interest of our readers. Gerber Life Insurance is not responsible for any content and recommends that you consult the appropriate professional with any questions or concerns you may have concerning any financial or health related issues.



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