Test DTV Converter Boxes Now, Experts Say

Published December 1, 2008

The switch from analog to digital television is coming in two months, and experts are telling Americans to make sure they are prepared to receive the new signal.

Analog transmissions will cease on February 17, ushering in a new era of digital television. The 85 percent of television viewers who have either cable or satellite service will not be affected by the switch, because those companies already provide digital service.

However, those who are still using antennas to get TV signals will have to prepare by getting digital converter boxes attached to their TVs. Industry experts say the sooner they do so, the better.

“The problem is that people are getting convertor boxes and are not trying them out. People need to test their convertor boxes now,” said Steve Effros, former president of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and now a Virginia-based industry consultant.

“It is written on your television set if you have a digital tuner installed in your TV,” Effros said. “If not, you need a convertor box, which costs anywhere from $45 to $70 at most electronics stores.

“The key is that people have to test out their equipment now, not in February,” Effros added. “You don’t want to find out in February that the convertor box does not work with your television.”

The Federal Communications Commission is administering a program to subsidize the purchase of converter boxes with $40 voucher coupons. The coupons must be used within 90 days of receipt or the voucher expires. The agency also emphasizes consumers should not be fooled by salespeople who say they need a new television to get the digital signal.

— Tabassum Rahmani