This week Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke spoke about the national switch for digital television, which takes place tomorrow, Friday, June 12.
In February, President Obama signed the DTV Delay Act, which set June 12 as the final deadline for television broadcasters to transition from analog to digital signals. The delay was for the millions of Americans who would have been left in the dark if the conversion had gone on as planned earlier this year. However, some 2.8 million American households, many of them African-American, are still not ready for the switchover.
Here's what you need to know:
If you currently have cable, satellite, or some other paid-for television service, you have nothing to worry about. You are prepared; you don't need to do anything, and June 12 you'll see no change in your television reception or programming.
If you have a new television purchased, let's say, within the last year, those new television sets come automatically with a digital tuner. So, if you have a television set a year old or newer, you're prepared; you don't need to do anything.
But if you have a television set more than a year old and you're not on cable or satellite, and you're relying basically on free over-the-air service, you are not ready. And you will lose your television service this Friday.
You have three options: You can subscribe to cable or satellite service; you can purchase a newer television set that has these automatic digital tuners built in; or you can purchase a converter box. Millions of households have applied for and received the $40 coupons to cover the cost of these converter boxes since many of them start at $40.
Coupons are still available for eligible households until July 31, 2009, but note that it will take about nine days to process and mail these coupons, and so they will not arrive in time for this Friday's conversion.
You can purchase the converter box immediately at a partnering retail stores like Target, RadioShack, Circuit City, or Wal-Mart.
David Wertheimer, CEO and Executive Director of the Entertainment Technology Center at USC and the former president of Paramount Digital Entertainment, believes the majority of people are in good shape.
"To some, the ‘digital transition' may have seemed daunting, like the world beyond college. But the reality is that the majority of people are already in great shape for this transition whether they know it or not," said Wertheimer. " If you still have a TV that is square with an antenna (rabbit ears or on your roof), and you do not have a new "converter box," on top of your TV, then you need to go to a store to ask what to do. The rest of you, who have rectangular TVs and/or set-top boxes or service from a cable, satellite or telco provider need not worry. For the most part, it's that simple because your service providers have been slowly transitioning you from analog to digital for awhile now."
You can get more information about the transition, or apply for a coupon, or even find a nearby retailer selling these converter boxes by calling toll-free at 1-888-DTV-2009. And for those who need extra assistance, the FCC is offering free in-home installation for consumers in most cities. They can call the FCC, or if you have a technical question about how to install the converter boxes, call the FCC at 1-888-CALL-FCC.