Changes are coming in the world of television. Traditional over-the-air television broadcasts will cease on February 18, 2009 and all stations will broadcast digitally. Although the majority of consumers already have the equipment and services necessary to continue to receive their television programming, there will still be an estimated 20 million who will need to take action if they want to continue viewing programming.
The digital switch over will occur in order to free up those portions of the broadcast spectrum, which traditional analog broadcasts currently occupy, for use by wireless and broadband services. Improved communications for public and safety services and more affordable high speed internet are just two of the potential benefits of the switch.
For most consumers who utilize cable or satellite TV services no action prior to the change over should be necessary as the set-top boxes or receivers they use will allow them to receive the digital signals. However, for those households who receive their television programming exclusively through over-the-air analog broadcasts, additional equipment will be needed in most instances.
Consumers who have purchased a television set in the past year or two may already have a set with a digital tuner which will allow them to pick up the new signals. However, because not every television manufactured prior to March 1, 2007 was required to have a digital tuner having a newer television may not exempt consumers from needing to seek out additional equipment.
For those households with a television that does not currently have a digital tuner and which receive programming over-the-air, one of three options are available.
• Purchase a digital ready television
• Subscribe to a cable or satellite TV service
• Obtain a set top box to allow an existing television to receive digital television signals
Purchasing a new television of course carries a price tag. Depending upon the size and display type, a new television could run from a couple of hundred to a few thousand dollars. Subscribing to a cable or satellite TV service would provide additional programming options and would eliminate the need to purchase additional equipment but would involve adding another monthly bill onto the household budget for homes that don’t currently subscribe to such services. The final option, which is probably the least expensive, is to purchase a set-top converter box; the cost of which is anticipated to be around $50 by the 2009 change over.
To assist consumers who receive over-the-air television programming without cable or satellite TV services, the US Department of Commerce will be providing a coupon program beginning in 2008. The program will reportedly provide up to two $40 vouchers per household to help offset the cost of this change for such households.
Certainly the change over to digital television should provide a needed boost for emergency services communications and wireless capabilities while improving television signal efficiency and quality for home viewers. Like most change however, it will not be completely without pain, as millions of home viewers on a budget may find they need to take action if they wish to keep their current television service.