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Making sure you're ready for DTV

Written by Rich Fiscus (Google+) @ 17 Feb 2008 21:36 User comments (3)

Making sure you're ready for DTV If you live in the U.S. and have a TV with only an old fashioned analog TV you have just a year before your TV will no longer be able to receive OTA (over the air) broadcasts. Although that may seem like a long way off, there are a number of reasons you should be gettting ready as soon as possible. If you already receive your television programming through a cable or satellite service there won't be anything to worry about. At the same time, all us households qualify for two $40 vouchers, which will at least cover most of the cost of a digital to analog converter, so there's really no good reason not to go ahead and get one (or two).
How to know if you're affected
Just because you have an analog TV doesn't mean you don't have a digital tuner. In fact, if you've bought it within the last two years it may have the necessary ATSC (digital) tuner in addition to the standard NTSC (analog) one. If it's less than a year old it's almost guaranteed to include ATSC tuning. If you're not sure you should look through the TVs manual or manufacturer's website to find out for sure. If it has an ATSC tuner you already have everything you need for DTV. If not, keep reading.

Why buy now?
So why should you act now when you have another year? There are actually a number of good reasons. To begin with you'll probably want to use a government voucher. There are a total of 33 million vouchers available, and only on a first come, first serve basis. If you sign up too late you simply won't be able to get them. Once the vouchers are available they'll be sent to the individuals on the list. As of Right now the vouchers will only be good for 90 days.

In light of recent information on the effective range of DTV transmissions there's a more practical reason to do some testing early. According to some engineers, including one who's done extensive real world testing, the range at which you can receive a digital broadcast is significantly smaller than what the government is counting on. Unless you live very close to the transmitter and aren't concerned about signal strength it's a good idea to setup a receiver to find out for yourself if you can receive DTV broadcasts for your current selection of analog channels. If not, you have time to mount an antenna on your roof, complain to your Congressional representative, or sign up for cable or satellite service.

What to do
In order to help figure out what your next (or first) move should be, here's a basic checklist that includes links to some good sources of information.

  • 1. Determine if you need a converter
    • If you have a HDTV, or a HD Ready display your TV is digital and doesn't need a converter. It may still need an ATSC tuner if it didn't come with one built in (in the case of a TV described as HD ready).

  • 2. Request a voucher
    • In order to request up to 2 vouchers for your household. You can apply online at the voucher program's official website or call the 24-hour hot line, 1-888-DTV-2009 (1-888-388-2009). You can also fax a coupon application to 1-877-DTV-4ME2 (1-877-388-4632) or mail one to P.O. Box 2000, Portland, OR 97208-2000.

  • 3. Research DTV converters
    • You can start by looking through the comprehensive list of converters in our Hardware section. If you have comments or corrections for any entry there you can submit them there. If you have questions, try looking in our HDTV forum. Although not all DTV signals are High Definition, they all use the same ATSC broadcast standard.
    • You should also take a look at local or online retailers to find out what converters they have in stock, and how much they cost. Although the $40 vouchers will cover the majority of the cost of most basic converters, some models will certainly be more expensive than others. At the same time, Echostar announced at CES that they'll be taking a loss on sales of their entry level converter in order to bring the price in line with the government voucher's value.

  • 4. Buying your converters
    • Once you've picked out your converter and received your voucher you're ready to buy. If you're planning to buy more than one converter it's a good idea to get one to begin with, and try it out before you get more. If you're confident in your choice you can go ahead and buy as many as you need.

  • 5. Testing it out
    • Even if you don't really care about DTV it's a good idea to make sure there won't be any problems when you don't have an analog signal to fall back on. If you need to return it after the switchover next year it will be a lot harder to find a replacement, and you'll be fighting much bigger crowds at the store.

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3 user comments

124.2.2008 6:47

Same thing in the UK; the only difference is that we don't get vouchers- we are forced to go out and buy it with our own money - that sucks!

29.4.2008 16:16

Vwey good info for consumers it has simplyfied it down for the average consumer for them to know what they should be looking for. Well done Vurbal.

39.4.2008 16:16

Edit Dbl Post Due to Afterdawn error.

This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 09 Apr 2008 @ 16:18

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