Kill Your Television (in 2009)

DTV conversion box coupon program logoA year from now, your television is going to break.

Over-the-air broadcast television is changing from the current NTSC analog broadcast standard to a new digital transmission mechanism. There are several significant reasons why this is a good idea. Broadcast television will become HD quality, with improved video and audio. Television stations will be able to transmit additional information, even multiple channels, in their allotted space. Also, this will release a large piece of valuable radio frequency spectrum, which will be used to raise money for the Federal government and open up the airwaves to exciting new services.

There is, however, one drawback—and it's a big one: your over-the-air TV receiver won't work anymore. Starting February 17, 2009, analog television transmission as we know it will stop. You'll have as much luck getting a video signal on your old television as you would an AM radio—unless you get a converter box.

People with old analog television sets will be able to continue to receive broadcast television if they place a converter box between their antenna and television set. The boxes are expected to be available in stores later this year, at a cost of $50-$70 apiece.

The Federal government has instituted a coupon program to ease the transition to digital. The coupon will provide a $40 discount on the price of a digital TV converter box, which will bring down the cost significantly for most consumers.

At first glance this may appear to be government subsidized television, but it isn't. The US Government will make significant money by auctioning off the radio spectrum that is released by this transition. A small portion of proceeds will be allocated to the consumers who are hurt by the transition, and to ease them into digital reception. It's only fair that the transition be funded by those proceeds, and not on the shoulders of consumers.

If you receive satellite or digital cable television, the change won't affect you. It only affects people who receive over-the-air television signals.

I'm not totally sure, however, how this will affect analog cable customers who do not use a cable box. I fall into that category: I'm a basic cable customer. I'm not sure if they plan to remodulate the broadcast signals into analog, or if those customers will need a converter box too.

Just to be safe, I requested a converter box coupon. Who knows, after the recent Time-Warner rate increase, I may want to just drop cable and switch over to the new world of high-def, digital broadcast television.

For more information and to request a converter box coupon, go here: TV Converter Box Program