And as if that weren't complicated enough, there's the matter of cable TV.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983

Better late than never for all-digital TV

June 14, 2009

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2009, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2009, The Post-Standard

   If something really weird happened to your TV a few days ago, you ought to run for president -- of the Procrastinators' Club.
   June 12 was the day all TV broadcasts had to switch to digital. So if you kept banging the side of your old TV on Friday hoping the picture would come back, you're 'way overdue in joining the high-quality TV revolution.
   There are no more -- repeat, NO MORE -- old-fashioned analog TV broadcasts. Don't adjust your set. If you have an old TV and you didn't plug in a converter box, you're in the dark as far as broadcast TV goes.
   You might remember that the feds had originally ordered all broadcast TV stations to switch to digital TV on Feb. 17 earlier this year. People who weren't ready for the switchover complained, and the date got pushed forward to June 12.
   Yep, that was Friday. So here we are at the end of the first weekend of mandated digital TV. People who bought new TV sets in the last 12 months or so are OK. All those sets have digital tuners. And everyone with old sets who bought converter boxes are OK, too.
   So where does that leave all the procrastinators out there?
   Things might not be as bad as you think. You can still send away for a coupon good for $40 off on a digital converter. A federal government Web site tells how to get a coupon and answers other questions on digital TV. It's at www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/digitaltv.html. Be sure to read everything on that site before doing anything else.
   You'll find converters at stores such as Best Buy, Target, Walmart and Radio Shack.
   (A word to the wise: The National Telecommunications and Information Administration, a federal agency, is running the coupon program and is far behind schedule in sending coupons out. Expect to wait a long time. You can't apply for a coupon refund retroactively, either. That means you can't buy a converter box now, without a coupon, and then get a refund when the coupon arrives in the mail.)
   Complicating the switchover is another change, the advent of High Definition TV. HDTV is a kind of higher-tech cousin to digital TV; it uses digital signals, but can't be viewed except on an HDTV set. Hooking a converter box to your old analog set will provide digital reception, but it won't give you HDTV.
   And as if that weren't complicated enough, there's the matter of cable TV. Because cable signals aren't sent out over the airwaves, they're not regulated the way broadcast signals are. So theoretically cable TV viewers might still get some analog channels, and a check of my own cable feed showed a bunch of them on Saturday. But my guess is that cable companies will get rid of all analog channels as soon as they can, except possibly the ones that show community events.