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Are You Prepared for the DTV Conversion? BBB and National Association of Broadcasters answer frequently asked questions on the switch to DTV

1/5/2009

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Video Player Image: Orange Retro-styled TVAs a result of ubiquitous TV ads and a well-executed PR campaign, consumer awareness of the nationwide transition to digital television is rising steadily. Despite widespread awareness, many homes are still unprepared for the switch. Better Business Bureau and the National Association of Broadcasters are offering answers to questions surrounding the transition.

According to the most recent survey released by the National Association of Broadcasters, 92 percent of households are aware of the switch to all-digital broadcasting. Overall awareness is high, but only half of the households surveyed that rely on a broadcast signal have purchased a digital TV set or converter box, or applied for the government-issued converter coupon. And with about 14 million U.S. households relying on analog signals to watch television, this means a lot of homes are still unprepared for the June 12th transition.

“Nearly everyone is aware that all TV stations will soon be broadcasting solely in digital, but millions of American households are still not ready for the switch,” said Steve Cox, BBB spokesperson. “Some people just haven’t gotten around to it, while others don’t understand the technology. Whatever the reason, now is the time to take action or get help, otherwise when people sit down to watch NCIS, House or Law & Order on June 12th, all they’ll be watching is a blank screen.”

For consumers with questions about getting ready for the DTV transition, BBB and the National Association of Broadcasters are providing the following answers to some frequently asked questions:

Federal Coupon Program

Is it too late for me to get the $40 coupon from the government for buying a converter box?
It’s not too late to get the coupon, however, with the transition right around the corner on  June 12th there’s no guarantee that you’ll receive the coupon in time to buy a box before the switch to DTV.

Where do I go for more information on getting a coupon?
Consumers can go to www.dtv.gov for more information on the switch to DTV and instructions on how to get a coupon. BBB is warning consumers to stay away from the Web site www.dtv.com which is not associated with the DTV switch.

I received a coupon but it expired before I used it. Can I get another one?
Unfortunately, coupons – which expire after 90 days – are not replaceable and are only issued two per household. If you received coupons that have expired, the easiest authorized way to receive new coupons is to ask a friend or family member to apply for another coupon on your behalf.

Converter Box Set-up

Can I continue viewing closed captioning after my converter box is installed?
Yes. Coupon-eligible converter box manufacturers are required to provide closed captioning for display on your television, but the features provided vary by box. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has produced a guide that lists selected features, including closed captioning, for a number of converter boxes (available online at www.dtv.gov). The guide is updated periodically as new converter boxes become available.

After installing my converter box, I lost some of the channels I used to get. What should I do?
After hooking up a converter box to your TV set, or installing a new digital TV set, you will need to scan (also known as “auto-tune”) for new channels to make sure you receive all of the digital stations broadcasting in your area. While some boxes do this automatically, you may need to select scan manually.

Because some digital stations that are already on air are moving to different channel numbers after the DTV transition, you may need to rescan again after June 12th to ensure that you receive all of the digital stations broadcasting in your area.

For what types of situations do I need to rescan?
You should rescan your converter box or TV set for channels when installing equipment for the first time, after repositioning or moving an antenna and once again after June 12th. Since some digital stations are still coming on air, you may want to consider rescanning on a periodic basis to get all of the digital programming available.

Antenna Selection

Will I still need an antenna to receive DTV over-the-air?
Yes, you will still need an antenna to continue watching free, over-the-air television after the digital transition. In general, the same type of antenna that gives you good quality analog TV signals now will also provide reliable DTV reception. After June 12th, some television stations will be moving to a different channel in a different frequency band, which may require you to get another type of antenna from the one you are using. To help determine which outdoor antenna is best for you, visit www.antennaweb.org.

Will I need a special antenna to receive DTV over the air?
If you currently use an indoor or rooftop antenna to receive over-the-air analog broadcast television signals and you already get good or excellent reception quality, you should be able to get reception of digital television broadcast signals with the same antenna. For more information about using an antenna to receive local television broadcast channels, visit www.antennaweb.org.

What do VHF and UHF stand for?
There are two types of frequency bands: VHF and UHF. VHF stands for Very High Frequency and includes channels 2-13. UHF stands for Ultra High Frequency and includes channels 14-51.  Most DTV stations use channels in the UHF band.

How do I know which antenna to buy?
Since most DTV stations use channels in the UHF band, you will likely need an antenna that can receive UHF signals. But if any stations in your area broadcast on VHF, then you will need a combination VHF/UHF antenna. Receiving VHF and UHF requires different types of antennas. If your existing antenna is VHF-only, then you will need to replace it.

For more information on the DTV transition, go to www.dtv.gov or call 1-888-DTV-2009. For more trustworthy and timely advice on how to be a savvy consumer, go to www.bbb.org.


 

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