We’ve come a long way in television viewing since the days of “rabbit ear” antennas. From the snowy black-and-white images, to the colorful, crystal clear 500-plus channel dishes and big screens of today, television has evolved into a medium Hoosiers depend on and enjoy. Now comes yet more waves of change for all channel surfers – the transition from analog to digital television.
Perhaps you’ve heard about this already, but have been confused about what it really means. I hope this column will help you tune out the confusion.
On February 17, 2009, a new federal law takes effect, making broadcasters switch from analog to digital broadcasts to free additional spectrum for the nation’s first responders. Analog and digital are two types of signals used to deliver television programming. Digital signals are better transmitted than analog, so the change will mean better picture quality as well as improvements for public safety.
More important, this move will help make Americans safer. As technology evolves, the public and private sectors are using larger portions of the spectrum to communicate. Digital broadcasts will use smaller sections of the spectrum than analog broadcasts. This will ensure that state and local emergency responders have adequate spectrum to communicate and respond to a natural or man-made disaster.
Approximately 34 million households still use “over-the-air” analog broadcasts for their television service. For 20 million households it is the only television source they have, according to the National Association of Broadcasters. So as you can see, this will be a big change for some Americans.
Now, let’s identify analog. If you are receiving television signals via an antenna, that’s analog. You must make a change to continue watching television. However, the change is easy and not too expensive if you take advantage of offers currently available.
You don’t have to go out and buy a new television. A consumer can purchase an analog-to-digital converter box to continue using the analog television. Converter boxes should cost about $60, according to area electronics retailers.
According to the National Conference of State Legislators, consumers can apply for up to two $40 coupons that may be used to purchase a digital-to-analog converter box from a certified retailer. That means with your coupon in hand, the converter box may only cost about $20. The program is administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
Between now and March 31, 2009, households may request these coupons, while funding is available, in one of the following ways:
•Apply online at www.dtv2009.gov
•Call the Coupon Program 24-hour hotline 1-888-DTV-2009 (1-888-388-2009), TTY 1-877-530-2634
•Mail a coupon application to: P.O. Box 2000, Portland, OR 97208-2000 or
•Fax a coupon application to 1-877-DTV-4ME2 (1-877-388-4632)
If you don’t know who to call to get you hooked up, don’t worry. The NTIA will provide consumers with a list of eligible converters and participating retailers when the coupons are mailed. Coupons expire 90 days after they are mailed, and only one separate coupon may be used to purchase each coupon-eligible converter box.
A key point to remember – this particular converter does not mean you will suddenly have high definition television. It only makes it possible for you to transfer your analog signal to a digital format. For high definition, you do need to make additional equipment purchases.
U.S. Department of Commerce officials report more than 650,000 households have already acted by purchasing a converter box and are now experiencing the benefits of digital television with a clearer picture and more programming service. Meanwhile, six countries – Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Finland, Andorra, Sweden and Switzerland – have all completed the switch to digital. Among 33 other countries now in process of the making the switch, the U.S. is ahead of most. In fact, neighboring Mexico is not scheduled to complete its switch until 2022.
So welcome to our digital world. Hopefully, you now have a clearer “picture” of this upcoming change, one that will ultimately benefit all of us. What do you think?
Please contact me at State Senator Dennis Kruse, Indiana Senate, 200 W. Washington Street, Indianapolis, IN 46204 or call 1-800-382-9467, or send e-mail to S14@in.gov.