We don’t have cable or satellite at our house, setting us apart from the majority of the US population, but that’s fine by me. We barely watch any TV, certainly not enough to warrant paying $50 a month. On the rare occasions we do watch, our powered indoor antenna gets around 5 clear channels. That has reduced our TV watching because you can only cycle through five stations so many times before you decide nothing’s on. With hundreds of channels it could take hours to determine nothing’s worth watching.
There are times when I’d like to watch sports or a TV movie that’s been edited, but it hasn’t been worth it to us yet. Until I found out more about the transition to digital.
On February 17, 2009 all analog signals will replaced by digital signals. If you use an antenna and don’t do anything, you will no longer get any channels. This is actually good news, because the US Government is giving out $40 coupons (limit of two per household) to subsidize your purchase of a digital signal converter. The converter will let you watch digital channels on your analog TV. There are several reasons you’ll like digital more than analog. The first is there are more channels coming online so you’re likely to get more stations over time. (Antenna Web will show you what channels you’ll get). There’s also a big quality improvement. The channels you get will look much better than before. No more snowy channels, laden with squiggly lines. If you get the channel, it will be crystal clear.
Most of the eligible digital converters cost around $50, dropping the out of pocket price down to a reasonable $10. Authorized retailers include Wal-Mart, BestBuy, RadioShack and Circuit City along with several online retailers.
The steps to upgrade are simple.
1. Apply for a coupon online or call 1-888-388-2009 to request one. 1
2. Use the coupon to buy a TV converter from an authorized retailer.
3. Hook it up and watch digital TV for free!
If you have any questions, check the FAQ.
1 I requested two coupons for our household on 5 April 2008 and the status page says they should be mailed out on 9 May 2008.