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Getting Ready for Transfer to Digital TV - Just the Facts

People have been asking if they need do to something to get ready for the transfer to a digital television transmission often called the DTV format.

On February 17, 2009, all current analog formatted broadcast signals for commercial television will end under Federal law. Congress authorized the conversion to digital television (DTV) transmission to free up analog frequencies for public communications such as law enforcement, fire departments, and emergency management agencies. Some of the analog frequencies will be sold for use by commercial wireless services.

If you receive free over-the-air television programming via an antenna, then you need to determine what type of TV you own. If you use only free over-the-air television and your TV is an analog receiver, you will need a built-in digital tuner or a digital-ready monitor with a separate digital tuner set-top box. A regular antenna, either on your roof or on your TV will receive digital signals.


If your current antenna does not receive UHF signals (channels 14 and above) you may need a new antenna or need to add a UHF section to your existing antenna system. The new antenna or additional section of the antenna should be available at any electronics store. If you have an analog television, you will have to purchase a digital-to-analog set-top converter box to attach to your TV set to be able to view over-the-air digital programming after February 17, 2009.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is administering the coupon program for a digital tuner. This program will end March 31, 2009. The program will allow any household to request a maximum of two coupons to be used toward the purchase digital-to-analog converter boxes.

These boxes are for over-the-air digital television signals only, and are not intended for analog TVs connected to cable or satellite TV services. If you subscribe to a cable or satellite television service you will need to contact your provider about any additional components. Cable and satellite TV providers sell or lease digital set-top boxes for their specific services.

All television receivers shipped in interstate commerce or imported into the United States after March 1, 2007, must contain a digital tuner. Also, the Commission requires all sellers of television receiving equipment to label at the point-of-sale all units that do not include a digital tuner and that such units include only an analog tuner, and will require a digital-to-analog converter box to receive over-the-air broadcast television after February 17, 2009.

Currently all television equipment being sold should contain a digital tuner, or should be identified at the point-of-sale as not having one. Be sure to read the label if you are purchasing a new TV.

If your television equipment was purchased prior to May 25, 2007, most will contain a label indicating it contain a digital tuner. The labels may be worded as “Integrated Digital Tuner” or “Digital Tuner Built-In.”. Often the word “receiver” is used in place the word “tuner,” and the terms “DTV,” “ATSC,” or “HDTV” may be substituted for “digital.” If your television equipment contains any of these labels or markings, you should be able to view digital over-the-air programming without the need for a digital-to-analog converter box.

A safe bet is to check the manual that came with your television equipment in order to determine whether it contains a digital tuner.

If your television set is labeled as a “Digital Monitor” or “HDTV Monitor,” or as “Digital Ready” or “HDTV Ready,” this does not mean it has a digital tuner. The above labels will likely call for a separate set-top box which contains a tuner in order to view digital programs.

If you cannot determine whether your television set contains a digital tuner, you can check your equipment by contacting the manufacturer and give them the name and model number of the unit to determine whether it contains a digital tuner. This information may be available online through the manufacturer’s website.

For more information you can visit the NTIA website at www.dtv2009.gov. and the Commission’s DTV website, www.dtv.gov.

Chris Dean is director of The Tri-Lakes Telecommunication Community Resource Center (TCRC), Hwy. 413 South, PO Box 718, Reeds Spring, Mo, 65737, at the southwest corner of Reeds Spring High School. The center is open to the public and provides access to college classes for credit and continuing education, video-conferencing for individuals, businesses and organizations, computer classes, satellite downlinks, multimedia computer software, meeting facilities and Internet access. For information visit http://telecenter.missouri.edu/reedsspring.

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