HDTV for Everyone in 2009

The End of Analog

Did you know that as of June 12, 2009, all broadcast TV stations will convert from analog to an all-digital or high-definition (HD) format? Although this might sound a little scary at first glance, it truly isn't much to worry about. To help ease the transition, ConnectMyCable has put together some information on the subject so you'll know exactly what you need to do.

The move to a total digital format has been in the works for awhile, but the powers that be had not decided on a date until the President signed the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 that had legislation that stated February 17, 2009 as the date all broadcasters nationwide must change formats. That date was then pushed back to June 12, 2009 to give people more time to prepare.

The new HD format will give viewers a theater-like quality picture and sound. Broadcaster will also be able to offer multiple programming choices through multi-channel streams. For example, your favorite shows from ABC would be seen on channel 13.1 while simultaneously ABC could have their weather showing on 13.2.

As for the old analog channels, they will be used for public safety, such as police, fire and emergency rescue and advanced wireless services.

Now that you know what is going to happen you're probably wondering what you have to do to prepare for such a change.

Preparations for the digital future

Even though you don't want to get left in the dark when TV switches over to digital, there's no need to panic. Don't chunk your big 'ole clunky analog TV into the trash. Just like Y2K came and went without much problem, this too shall pass.

If you are a satellite or cable TV subscriber, chances are you are already watching some HD channels and won't be affected. To make sure, simply call your provider and ask if you will need any kind of additional components, other then the set-top box you already have, for the 2009 conversion.

Now, if you are watching TV free over-the-air, it gets tricky, depending on the kind of television you own. If your TV is a model made before 2007 then you might own an analog TV. The fix is rather easy. All you need to do is purchase a digital-to-analog set-top converter box to attach to your TV set. This will change the high-definition signal coming in into an analog signal so your TV can present the picture to you. It's not too hard a process, and shouldn't be too expensive, but if you don't buy the converter you won't be able to watch any channels at all.

For the rest of you that have purchased new television sets, you have to find out if it is really an HDTV. A true HDTV contains a digital tuner inside that will read the digital signal that is being transmitted into it. Some of the newer TV's are labeled as digital monitor, HDTV monitor, digital ready or HDTV ready. This does not mean it actually contains a digital tuner and so like the old analog TV's you would have to purchase the digital-to-analog set-top converter box to attach to your TV set.

To find out if you have a true HDTV simply read your manual to see that it includes the digital tuner. Also, be aware that as of March 1, 2007, the FCC stated that all TV's shipped or imported into the United States must contain the digital tuner. Effective May 25, 2007, the FCC required television sellers to disclose if a TV did not include the digital tuner at the point-of-sale.

Now, if you have a true HDTV you will most likely need those rabbit ear antennas to receive a crystal-clear digital picture, so don't toss those out quite yet. If the rabbit ears just don't match your home decor you can install an antenna on your roof that will help bring in a good digital signal.

The cost of a digital-to-analog converter

If you don't own a HDTV then you will have to purchase a digital-to-analog converter to watch TV. Wondering how much this will cost you?

At this moment it is difficult to say exactly how much the converter will cost. Prototypes from Thomson, distributed under the RCA brand, and LG will begin to appear in stores in January. It's probably safe to assume that more electronic companies will jump on the bandwagon and put out their own models so each price will vary. The current estimated cost of the new digital-to-analog converters will be about $50 to $70.

While this may at first seem inconvenient or unecessary, it turns out the governement is actually stepping in to help make the transition easier for those that are upset about paying the money.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration will issue $40 gift cards to consumers who have to buy the converters. Beginning in January 2008, consumers may apply for up to two coupons each, for a total of $80 for the purchase of up to two converters, while the initial $990 million allocated for the program is available.

In the end the new conversion will give us a better viewing experience and it won't be too much trouble to get prepared.