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Ask a specialist: what do I need to know before the switch to digital television?

By TERESA HUNSAKER
Utah State University Extension family and consumer science agent
Weber County
with information from the Nationa

The public has been asked by the Federal Communication Commission to be prepared to switch to digital television by February of 2009. This move is intended to free up valuable airwaves for increasing timely and important needs such as police, fire, emergency and other broadcasting.

By transmitting information as "data bits," a digital broadcast can carry substantially more information than what analog broadcast technology allows. The difference between analog and digital broadcasting is similar to the difference between compact discs and cassette tapes. Picture and sound quality will be greatly improved with digital TV. Consider this information when making the switch from analog to digital TV.

* Every TV set made before 1998 is a traditional analog television. If you purchased a new TV after 2004, there is a high likelihood that it has a built-in digital tuner.

* If you own a television with a digital tuner or subscribe to a pay TV service, you will likely continue to receive TV programming as usual after the transition. Contact your service provider to find out how the transition will affect your service.

* If you have a TV set that receives broadcasts using an antenna, such as "rabbit ears" or a rooftop antenna, you will likely need to purchase a simple converter box. Converter boxes are available through most electronic retailers.

* Congress created the TV Converter Box Coupon Program for those who wish to continue using their analog TV sets after the transition. The program allows U.S. households to obtain up to two coupons, each worth $40, that can be applied toward the cost of eligible converter boxes.

To receive information on the program, call 1-888-DTV-2009 or visit https://www.dtv2009.gov/ApplyCoupon.aspx. Certified converter boxes are available from both national and local retailers. Call ahead to confirm availability of coupon-eligible converter boxes on the day you plan to shop.




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