Below you'll find some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) related to the DTV 2009 Transition. These questions are commonly asked, and should help you in determining your plan for the upcoming switch to digital television.
Smart Box Help
Note: Be sure to use the resource links listed in this "Smart Box" for getting your $40 coupon for a digital converter box. The FCC's website link is listed below for those who want to dive more into the transition.
$40 Coupon Website: https://www.dtv2009.gov
Please note you must apply for the $40 coupon before March 31, 2009. After this date, no more coupons will be offered.
FCC Website: https://www.fcc.gov
Setup Guide: Converter Box Setup Guide
This is a pretty good and simple online guide created by the FCC to assist you in setting up your converter box, once you have purchased it.
Why Is The DTV Transition Happening?
The US Government says the switch to digital television is necessary because it will free up bandwidth for emergency services and additional leasing of bandwidth to companies for purposes such as wireless services.
Will My Television Stop Working After February 17, 2009?
Depending on your location, you MIGHT be able to receive further broadcasts. However, this will be limited to those who are receiving a signal from translator stations, and even then, these translators might already have changed their broadcasts to digital or some of their stations to digital. There is no mandate yet on translators going digital, but the US Government eventually will require it, and as such, there are a handful of translators throughout the country who are going digital.
Unfortunately, DigitalDingus does not have information about the specific translators who are adhering to the DTV Transition in February, so I would advise you to either call the FCC (1-888-225-5322) or email them. They will probably lean towards telling you to purchasing a converter box as soon as possible, but inform them you appreciate the advice, but would like more specific information about the translator in your area. You can also obtain more information about translators by going to:
Outside of analog reception, your TV will work just fine. You can watch movies on it with your VCR and/or DVD player without any issues. You can still play your video game console on it as well. This only affects your OTA (Over-The-Air) reception of analog signals.
Will My TV Reception Look Better?
Well, this is an interesting question. Overall, I'd say yes, your reception will look better. But please be aware there will be variances of the quality of the programming from station to station. You will eventually become an artifacting connoisseur as time goes on, and will be able to identify digital artifacting quite well.
Currently, my experience with digital television and HD signals have been mixed. I've seen some great broadcasts, but my excitement was shot down with artifacting only moments later. This is because television stations are compressing their signals too much.
Do I Have To Apply Online For The Coupons?
No, you don't. However, it's the easiest and fastest way to receive your $40 coupon. You can call 1-888-388-2009 for more details. Some retailers might have physical applications in their stores--but I would seriously avoid having them mail the application for you if offered. Make sure you mail the application yourself. Currently, there is no list of retailers offering applications in their stores just yet, and I suspect there probably won't be, and your experience will vary.
If you know relatives or friends who don't have access to the internet, you should ask them if they would want you to fill out a coupon application online for them. This will be especially important for your elderly relatives, as they could forget about the whole transition until the last moment, and then they could be without reception for at least a month until the coupon arrives. So, this is one of those things where you may have to be sure they are taken care of.
Are There Enough Coupons For Everyone Who Wants Them?
There are two phases in which the coupons are being distributed. In the first phase, there are 22,250,000 coupons available. Once these are depleted entirely, 11,250,000 coupons will be available, but on a more strict basis of those who receive their television broadcasts OTA using some sort of antenna.
What Do The Coupons Look Like?
The coupons are actually in the form of a plastic gift card, so they will be less likely lost. Paper coupons are easily torn and disfigured over a short period of time. With the plastic $40 coupon card you receive, it will work just like any other coupon or gift card you may have used in the past. The cards have a 16-digit number on the front, a 3-digit number on the back, and a Month, Day, and Year expiration.
What Are The Conditions Of Using The Coupon?
When you receive your coupon card, you will only be able to use it for qualifying converters at your local retailer. Be sure to ask them which ones are applicable for the coupon discount. More than likely, there will be a list in stores, showing the different brands and models which qualify for the discount.
What Is My Expected Cost, Including The Coupon?
This is going to vary widely, but I have noticed retailers are selling converter boxes for around $60. I have to wonder how much the actual cost of the units have been inflated, so the consumer is forced to pay more out-of-pocket, even with the coupon. Because we're not talking about rocket science technology here. These are simple boxes, made in China, which simply convert a digital signal to an analog signal, shooting it out through a coax jack or RCA video output jack.
Expect to pay around $20-$30, even with a coupon. There may be some better deals during the holiday season, which is why unless you really need a converter box now, I advise people to apply for a coupon around the end of September, which means you'll get the coupon around the end of October, and the coupon will expire around 90 days from the mailing date, which should give you time to shop during Thanksgiving and Christmas sales.
Can I Use The Coupon For An Online Purchase?
Yes, you can. However, shop wisely. I've been to a few websites which charge around $9 for ground shipping. Considering fuel prices these days, I can't really blame them as UPS and other freight companies are passing along the wonderful costs, but if you have a local retailer near you, or in the area of where you work during the week, choose that option.
If you do purchase a converter box online, you will be required to enter in the 16-digit coupon number, the 3-digit number on the back of the coupon card, along with the expiration date.