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Digital Transition Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about the digital transition, with links to more information.

What is the digital transition?

The digital transition refers to the nationwide move to digital technology for sending television signals to homes.

At midnight on June 12, 2009, all TV broadcasters will stop using the current technology, called analog television, and will broadcast exclusively in a digital format, also known as digital television (DTV).

How will the digital transition affect me?

If your TV is connected to a pay TV service, like cable or satellite, you won’t be affected by the change.

If your TV has a digital tuner, you won’t be affected by the change (see “How do I know if my TV has a digital tuner?, below”).

If your TV receives its signal over the air, with the help from an antenna or “rabbit ears,” you will be affected and will have three options to continue receiving TV after June 12,, 2009:

  • Keep your existing TV and purchase a TV converter box. A converter box hooks into your TV and converts the digital signal to an analog signal. Converter boxes cost $40 and up. The government has a coupon program to reduce the cost of converter boxes. Click here for more information
  • Connect to cable, satellite or other pay service, or
  • Purchase a new television with a digital tuner.

How do I know if my tv has a digital tuner in it?

Most television sets sold in the last few years that are larger than 27 inches will likely have a digital tuner. To check whether your TV set can receive over-the-air digital broadcast signals, take a look at your owner’s manual or look on the set for an indication that it has a built-in Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) tuner. You can also check the manufacturer’s Web site to check the capabilities by model number.

What is analog television?

Analog television is the current method of transmitting television signals. It has been the standard broadcast technology since the inception of television.

What is digital television?

Digital television (DTV) is a more efficient and higher quality broadcast technology. DTV takes up less space in the air, or spectrum, allowing stations to send multiple channels of programming. Additionally, it opens extra spectrum for use by public safety officers and emergency responders (police, fire, medical).

What is high definition television (HDTV)? Is it the same thing as “DTV?”

High Definition television (HDTV) is a form of digital television. High definition describes the quality of the images you see during a broadcast. Some digital TV signals are delivered in high definition and some are delivered in standard definition. Standard definition is also digital, but the pictures aren’t the same quality as “high definition.”

You do not need a high definition TV in order to continue watching TV once the transition is complete.

Why is the transition happening?

Congress mandated the transition to DTV because of the many benefits it provides (see “What is digital television?”).

Will I be able to continue using my current television after the transition?

Yes, however your television may need an upgrade.

If your TV is connected to cable or satellite, your access to broadcast channels should not change.

If you own a TV that receives television via an antenna (“rabbit ears”), you must act in order to continue receiving television. You can either:

  • Purchase a converter box to use with your existing analog television
  • Purchase a television with a digital tuner that can receive DTV signals with an antenna
  • Subscribe to cable or satellite

For more information about how the digital transition may affect the TVs in your home, please visit the following sites:

How can I get a converter box?

Converter boxes are expected to go on sale in spring 2008 and will be available for purchase at retailers nationwide.

How can I get a coupon to offset the cost of the converter box?

The federal government’s coupon program has ended.

What if I do nothing?

If you own any TVs that receive television with an antenna only (for example, via “rabbit ears” with no cable or satellite service) and you do not take one of the steps above you will not be able to receive a television signal in your home after June 12,, 2009.

Where can I learn more about this?

For more information on the digital transition: