Digital TV Change Coming FAST

If you are uncertain about the Congressionally-mandated switch from analog to digital TV, join the club. There is so much confusion rampant across the country that the FCC, in its wisdom, is funding a multi-million dollar “road trip” to travel the nation in big buses to help consumers muddle through the miasma and uncertainty surrounding this critical situation.

One such bus will be in Portland Monday at Pioneer Courthouse Square from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., so if you don’t have a job you should be able to stop by during these convenient hours and “get the scoop” on the “big change”. If you are unable to make it, here is what you need to know:

1. On February 17th, 2009, all full-power broadcast TV stations in the US will cease broadcasting on the analog airwaves. This change is primarily for the consumer as the picture will be clearer, the sound better, and there will be more channels available. It is also worth mentioning that the government will now be able to auction off the unused bandwidth for billions and billions of dollars.

2. You will need a TV set with a digital tuner to receive these over-the-air digital signals. No analog set will ever work again without a magic converter box. However, if you have cable or satellite TV you should have no problem whatsoever, as they have done the digital-to-analog conversion work for you.

3. What if you don’t have cable or satellite? You can get a magic converter box at your favorite consumer electronics store and even get two $40-off coupons (one per magic box) from the federal government to assist you with that purchase. Yes, your tax dollars are helping someone watch digital TV on an old, out-of-date, energy-hogging analog set with a crummy picture. Why the government would subsidize obsolete technology is beyond belief, but that is for another discussion.

4. Don’t forget that if you have any radios around that pick up the TV audio, those will not work, either, after the analog cut-off date.

5. It is really quite easy to connect your magic converter box should you decide to get one and keep that old set going for a few more years.

6. If you live near the northern border of the US, you could, with a large enough antenna, continue to receive analog TV signals, as Canada will not make its switch to full digital until August 31, 2011.

7. This switch is a good thing. Digital is either there or it is not. However, if you live in a fringe reception area you may have to do without a channel rather than with a channel that has poor reception. With digital, you either have the signal or you don’t.

8. This change is a big one. Be careful out there.

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Posted by at 11:00 | Posted in Measure 37 | 8 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • David from Eugene

    *This switch is a good thing. Digital is either there or it is not. However, if you live in a fringe reception area you may have to do without a channel rather than with a channel that has poor reception. With digital, you either have the signal or you don’t.*

    This is not a good thing. Digital is there and then it is not. You are watching a news broadcast and suddenly the signal strength drops, and the announcer stutters as the box repeats the last clear signal. And in full conformance with Murphy’s Law, the stutter or drop off happens during the key word in a sentence or phrase. It is like I am located in a fringe broadcast area; I am in the center of Eugene. At least with 1950’s analog you could follow the conversation even when the picture was white with snow. And you could adjust the rabbit-ears during the show, with digital you have switch to a signal strength meter to make adjustments.

    There is a plus side of sorts, 4 more channels to watch as some stations (OPB) are using their full band width.

    • Kenny

      Oh how I miss those rabbit ears. And an occassional hit to the screen for even better reception.

      • David from Eugene

        For those of us that reside in apartment buildings the choice is rabbit-ears or cable.

  • Linley

    Oregon has many low power and repeater TV stations. These stations will typically continue to transmit analog signals for some time beyond the February deadline. Therefore, in the areas of Oregon beyond its urban centers when you connect your DTV converter be sure to make arrangements so that you can also continue to receive analog signals. To get information for *your* situation enter your address at:
    to get a list of the TV signals that should be available there. Those from repeaters probably will not change in February.

    And yes, for DTV fringe reception, the day of the outside TV antenna has returned.

    • David from Eugene

      Given the poor digital reception in downtown Eugene (frequent short fluctuations in signal strength including 100% drops) I do not even want to think about fringe reception even with a roof top antenna. Besides what are apartment dwellers and those whose city ordinances or deed restrictions do not permit roof top antennas to do?

  • eddie

    For my part, way too much federal money is being spent “helping” people with something that ought to be the handled by the television industry. I mean, seriously, they’re making a change that gives people incentive to buy next-generation televisions, shouldn’t the television manufacturers be trusted to handle the dissemination of this info?

    I’ve been seeing ads explaining this thing in detail for months, on a daily basis. I’ve been hearing about coupons for free converter boxes… which seems ridiculous. They’re fairly cheap anyway, and the last time I checked there was no constitutional right to television receivers.

    Seems to me that way too much money is being spent on something that affects those few people using antennas on old televisions… which they could fix at Radio Shack for $25.

    • David from Eugene

      The problem they are trying avoid is thousands if not millions of irate people phoning their Congressman and local stations when on February 17th they turn on their analog TV and get snow instead of their favorite show. Of course if the lack of good reception I am experiencing in the center of a major urban area is common, they are likely to get the calls anyway.

      And regarding the amount of Federal effort in the education campaign, it was a federal decision that is making millions of TVs and VCRs obsolete.

  • Anonymous

    And it only took congress twenty years to come up with the broadcast standads. I remember hearing in 1996 how digital HDTV was just around the corner. The technology existed, we were just waiting on congress to force a standard on the TV manufacturers.

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