Do you know that by February 2009, all television broadcasts must be digital in the United States (it’s almost a Federal law)? That means anyone using rabbit ear antennas to watch TV will no longer have anything to watch. The screen will be blank. Rabbit ear type antennas capture analog signals and are not capable of receiving digital signals. Now, you don’t have to run out and get a new television, but you will need to make sure your TV is digital ready. The plan is for a small converter box that you can hook up to your current television to be sold for under $50 US. The converter box will allow you to see the digital broadcast on your analog TV. Plans are in the works to provide vouchers so you don’t have to pay as much out of pocket for the converter box.
Why the shift in broadcast signals, you ask? Briefly, the shift to digital broadcasts frees up the airwaves that analog broadcast currently use. The airwaves will be used for emergency personnel such as police and paramedics. The freed-up analog airwaves will also be sold to companies who will primarily use the bandwidth for wireless technologies. Opponents of the digital switchover plan feel it’s just another plan by the government try and stimulate the market and put a tighter hold on over-the-air broadcasts. Digital signals are much easier to encrypt than analog signals and encryption brings security. Opponents feel that movie and television companies are trying to limit what we are allowed to record and keep for personal, private use. Popular shows like LOST or American Idol and even the Saturday night movie will be “flagged” so you either can’t record it on a VCR or digital video recorder or copy the program if you do record it.
Though the FCC estimates that a majority of households in the United States already use digital cable or satellite broadcasts, there are still plenty who rely on analog broadcasts. If you already use digital cable or satellite, then the switchover in 2009 will have little effect, if any, on you. Digital cable boxes and satellite receivers already use digital TV tuners and won’t need to be upgraded.
If you would like to know more technical details about the digital broadcast signal switchover as well as digital television in general, check out the FCC’s digital TV website.
By chance, if you are in the market for a new TV now or will be in the near future and are confused a bit about the different types of TVs on the market, check out tomorrow’s blog.