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  1. #1

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    Digital Television Switch-Off 2009

    I'm a bit confused by this whole thing and I was wondering if anyone here would be able to help me out with this.

    When the switch-off from analog to digital television takes place here in the US next February - what happens? Can we still use our regular 15 year old TVs or will we have to get one of the new HD sets?

    What's the advantage to using digital broadcasts?
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  2. #2

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    Re: Digital Television Switch-Off 2009

    If you have cable/satellite/etc and you use a converter box, you WILL NOT have to do anything. Most cable is "Digital Cable" anyway.

    If you use an antenna or have cable going directly to a non-digital TV then you WILL have to get a special box in order to convert your signal to digital. But the government is actually offereing certificates so you can get these converter boxes for free. I don't know of anybody who still uses an antenna though.

    Check out http://www.dtv.gov/ for more info.


  3. #3

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    Re: Digital Television Switch-Off 2009

    If you have cable or satellite TV and a set top box, you don't have to do anything. If you get your TV off the air through an antenna, you will need to get a converter box or a digital TV--not necessarily hi-def, but nearly all digital TVs marketed are hi-def.

    The government will soon be offering $40-off coupons for those households needing converter boxes.
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  4. #4

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    Re: Digital Television Switch-Off 2009

    Quote Originally Posted by TraceCub View Post
    What's the advantage to using digital broadcasts?
    Well, instead of snow and static found in analog broadcasts, you'll get compression artifacts and all sorts of other digital glitches!

    Really, there is little advantage of a digital broadcast over analog broadcast -- in fact, at times, it could even look worse. The advantages mostly come in the interactivity that can be present in digital broadcasts (OnDemand and the like).

    The advantages don't come in until you get HD TV -- the HD signal (even when down-converted to a standard definition TV) is much much better than the standard definition channels. Much less compression artifacts, better colour, etc.

    My suggestion is, get a 1080p HDTV as soon as possible and pay the extra for the HD channels (though, I hear DirecTV is offering a few months free currently, even for existing subscribers [just for the asking]). You won't be sorry. You'll never want to watch those standard definition digital channels ever again.
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  5. #5

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    Re: Digital Television Switch-Off 2009

    I'm confused; we have cable that goes directly into our TVs. According to the website we don't need the converter. Is that right?

  6. #6

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    Re: Digital Television Switch-Off 2009

    I know someone on an antenna, my parents. I told my mom if they got much worse they would have a pig under their sink and an elephant sticking its head in the bathroom for a shower.

  7. #7

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    Re: Digital Television Switch-Off 2009

    Quote Originally Posted by twinmom View Post
    I'm confused; we have cable that goes directly into our TVs. According to the website we don't need the converter. Is that right?
    I would contact your cable tv provider (or even their website) to see. I was under the impression you would need one if you didn't have a cable tv converter box.


  8. #8

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    Re: Digital Television Switch-Off 2009

    My old roommates are going to have to deal with this. The landlord gets the "Free cable for (insert number) months!" and then cancels right when that ends and does that a few times a year thus leaving her tenants to fend with an anteana for the months between.

  9. #9

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    Re: Digital Television Switch-Off 2009

    Quote Originally Posted by FrumiousBoojum View Post
    Well, instead of snow and static found in analog broadcasts, you'll get compression artifacts and all sorts of other digital glitches!

    Really, there is little advantage of a digital broadcast over analog broadcast -- in fact, at times, it could even look worse. The advantages mostly come in the interactivity that can be present in digital broadcasts (OnDemand and the like).

    The advantages don't come in until you get HD TV -- the HD signal (even when down-converted to a standard definition TV) is much much better than the standard definition channels. Much less compression artifacts, better colour, etc.

    My suggestion is, get a 1080p HDTV as soon as possible and pay the extra for the HD channels (though, I hear DirecTV is offering a few months free currently, even for existing subscribers [just for the asking]). You won't be sorry. You'll never want to watch those standard definition digital channels ever again.
    I can see plenty of advantages by switching to an all-digital network. The analog signal uses a large portion of bandwidth per channel where as digital uses only a fraction of bandwidth for the same amount of content. I believe you can fit up to 10 to 12 digital channels for every one analog channel, or 3 to 4 HD channels to one SD analog. Taking off all the analog channels would free up countless amounts of bandwidth space for more channels and many more HD simulcast channels.

    And as for picture quality, it is much improved. Here in the Bay Area we have switched to a digital simulcast network for those who have a cable set-top-box. This means if you have a set top box from Comcast all the viewable channels will be broadcast in digital picture and Dolby Digital 2.0 or 5.1 sound. The picture quality went up significantly, even when I didn't think it could get better. Every channel is just about DVD quality picture, excluding the lesser watched channels in the mix, like those 24/7 shop at home alternatives, which are still heavily compressed.

    But this is all a luxury perk for the main reason the government is doing this. The biggest and most helpful advantage for this is to free up signal space in the air. By freeing up the radio signals in the air emergency frequencies will be picked up easier and with less effort. There will also be less dropped or crossed signals.

    I see a huge advantage for the switch to digital. But with these advantages comes a disadvantage, like for those who do not have a set top box for all their TV's in the house. I am a lucky one for I ordered set top boxes for all my TV's so that we can get all the channels on all TV's, including On Demand. We also get all our FM stations included with our package, but only if you have a set top box. For those who do not have set top boxes, they will need to get one from their cable provider. Satellite customers won't need to worry as they should already have set top boxes on all their TV's, unless they opted for over-the-air signals.

    People who do not subscribe to any of the cable or satellite providers, and who rely on over-the-air signals by using an antenna or directly connecting their television to the cable, will be hit the hardest. This can be seen as a massive disadvantage.

  10. #10

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    Re: Digital Television Switch-Off 2009

    We are still living in the dark ages, using an antenna. We do not have cable. My husband does not like TV at all and he would prefer to just call it quits having a TV at all when this switch comes. I, on the other hand, like TV and do have some favorite shows but I do not watch a lot so we will get the converter box with the coupon. Got to be careful with the coupon, though. It is our understanding that once you get the coupon it will expire in 90 days and most stores are not even offering the converter box yet. We are holding off on requesting one until we know more about when the boxes will be made available.

    This is what my husband's cousin had to say about all this on his blog:

    The countdown has begun. If I understand correctly TV broadcasts as we have come to appreciate them will cease to exist on Feb 17, 2009… just a little over one year from now. If you’re like about 70,000,000 American’s, you do not pay for cable and you do not have satellite or other means of watching TV other than connecting to a TV antenna.


    Next year, that won’t do you any good. All TV stations in America will be required to stop broadcasting that way.


    Why the change?
    Simple: up to 7 digital channels can be transmitted in the same bandwidth that occupies the portion of the band of one regular TV channel. More programming. More commercials. And all of that, clearer with better sound. The government (and let me remind you, that’s me and you and our wallets) is offering to help with a $40 coupon to help pay for a digital converter (which is really just a digital tuner that can tune in these digital signals like your older TV tunes in analog signals) that will allow you to use your regular TV and antennae, while adapting the digital signal your antennae gather. The bonus is, most TV stations in larger metropolitan areas are already broadcasting digital signals anyway. Many people do not know that the “snowy, interference-laden” images they currently watch could be eliminated with one of these converters now. With the converter being your only new expense, the TV signals will still be free, and you will be getting a much better picture and sound.


    Update Coupon is valid “while the initial funds of $990 million are available.” (from this Gov’t PDF — Thanks WC.) This includes HDTV signals. Most modern TVs built in the last 2 years, 27″ or bigger already have a digital converter built in (check your user manual!). If you have recently purchased an HDTV, you do not necessarily have to pay for cable or dish to get HD digital TV. Local stations broadcast these signals for free, and your TV can decode the signal.


    All HDTV signals are digital, but not all digital signals are HDTV — don’t get confused. Also, you do not have to buy a “converter” or digital tuner if you already pay for cable or dish: They are sending you a converted signal.
    This is only for the people out there like my mom who only pick up TV shows over the air.

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