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Jan Moore column - TV signal switch: Here's what you need to know
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            Think of this column as a public service announcement of sorts. I suppose this has to do with business in a way, because the upcoming change in television signal transmission will have a commercial as well as a consumer effect. However, I am writing this mainly to get the message out, and to give folks a resource to access if they have any questions.

            At midnight on Feb. 17, 2009, all full-power television stations in the United States will stop broadcasting in analog and switch to 100 percent digital broadcasting. According to the federal government, digital broadcasting promises to provide a clearer picture and more programming options and will free up airwaves for use by emergency responders.    

Rick Hutchison, the general manager of Northland Cable in Statesboro, said he was concerned that people were buying new television sets, because they felt their older model television wouldn’t work once the switch occurred.

“I have had so many people ask me if their televisions would work, particularly if they live in the county and are receiving their TV signal through an antenna,” Hutchison said. “I am here to tell them, yes it will, if you purchase a converter box. You do not have to buy a new television. In some cases, people may have to purchase another antenna, but unless you have cable or satellite, you will need to purchase a converter box.”

What does a converter box cost? Depending on where you purchase it, Hutchison said cost seems to be holding between $60 and $70. “I know that places like Best Buy and Circuit City are carrying them now, but I also understand that other large retailers intend on selling them as well,” he said.

You are probably thinking, that could add up if you have multiple televisions in your house. And, why should I have to pay for something the government is changing around on me. Here is a bit of good news.

The federal government has posted a website at www.dtv2009.gov which explains the purpose of the impending change in signal, and how it will affect you, the television viewer. It also explains the TV Converter Box Coupon Program for households wishing to keep using their analog TV sets after February 17, 2009. 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.

As a TV owner, here are your options in a nutshell, for continuing to receive programming after the transition date in 2009.

For those of you who want to continue to receive your television signal through an antenna you have two options. You can keep your existing analog TV and purchase a TV converter box which will plug into your TV and will keep it working. Or, you can purchase a television with a digital tuner.

The other major option is to connect to cable, satellite or other pay service. For those of you who do not have internet service, you can call the government to get your $40 coupon. Their number is 1-888-388-2009. I hope this has been helpful.