In Jan. 29 IssueBy Kim GrahamTimes Journal Reporter
As television stations and consumers prepare to transition to an all digital broadcast system, viewers and stations may have additional time to get ready for the changes.
In 2005, Congress required broadcasters to switch from analog to digital signals to free up portions of wireless airwaves to be used for commercial wireless services and emergency response networks.
The Senate voted unanimously Monday on a bill to postpone the currently scheduled February 17 changeover until June 12. The issue now goes to the House for a vote.
The impending change does not signal the end of free broadcast television but if you own an analog TV, you will need to take action to continue watching your favorite local stations.
One answer is to purchase a digital-to-analog converter box that plugs into an existing television.
The boxes, which cost from about $50 to $70, are in stock locally at Black's Appliance and K-mart in Russell Springs.
Donnie Black, owner of Black's Appliance, says the store has sold several converters.
"You only need a converter if you still use an antenna," said Black. "I'm surprised there are still a lot of people using them."
To help US households with the digital transition, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) implemented a program to offer $40 coupons toward the purchase of a digital converter boxes.
Many of the coupons have been redeemed in local stores.
"We've had about 100 coupons come through our store," said K-mart manager Anthony Carnes. "I'd say at least 90% of everybody who comes in and buys a converter uses a coupon."
Black estimates about 99% of his customers have used the government issued coupons.
Recently, the NTIA hit a $1.34 billion funding limit for the converter coupon program.
The NTIA started a waiting list for coupon requests as of January 4; however, the agency is sending coupons to people on the list only as unredeemed coupons expire, freeing up more money for the program.
At this point, Congress would need to step in with more money to get the program back on track, and is currently working on a bill to address the problem.
Meanwhile to prepare for the changes, some consumers have chosen to purchase new TVs with digital tuners.
"Several people are buying new High Definition TVs instead of the converter boxes because of the better quality picture," said Black.
Others are already paying for cable will not notice a change, those with satellite TV and should not be affected if their local stations are carried by their service. If that is not the case they will need a converter or a digital-ready television.