Launch of High Definition TV
Are You Ready for the Conversion?
by Empish J. Thomas
Lithonia, Georgia

Are you one of millions of Americans who watch television from a traditional analog TV set? Do you still use the "rabbit ears" on your TV? Are you one of many who don't have cable or satellite? If you answer yes to these questions, then the following information on the new high definition TV conversion will be very important to you.

Why is this conversion happening? The Digital Television Transition and Public Safety Act of 2005 requires that TV stations stop broadcasting in analog and broadcast only in digital after February 2009. The switch from old analog to new digital signals will provide a clearer picture, and each digital TV station will be able to transmit more channels. Also, freeing up the old air space will give room for first responders and emergency personnel.

How will this conversion impact my life? If you do not have cable, satellite, a high definition TV or a converter box for your old set, you will only get static and snow on your TV come February. You will not be able to view your favorite programs or watch the news.

Do I have to get cable, satellite or a new high definition TV? No, you can purchase a converter box, which is about the size of a video tape. The box can be connected to the back of your old TV set and you will be able to watch your regular programming. You will have to purchase a converter box if you use rabbit ears or a rooftop antenna and your TV is more than a few years old.

How do I purchase a converter box? The federal government has a discount coupon program that will allow each household to receive by mail two $40 coupons to purchase a converter box. You can call the toll-free number 888-388-2009 or log on to  and request your coupons. Keep in mind that once you receive your coupons, you only have 90 days to use them or they will expire. Coupon-eligible boxes can be purchased at Wal-Mart, Target, Circuit City, Best Buy, Radio Shack, Sears and other retailers as well as at .

How much does a converter box cost? Converter boxes range from $40 to $80 per unit, depending on the manufacturer and features. You must purchase one box per TV set; so if you have three sets in your home you must get three converter boxes. Each converter box will come with operating instructions and a remote control. You can connect your box immediately as many TV stations are already available in high definition. You may need sighted help to connect your converter box and to use the new remote control. Some remotes are not fully accessible to blind people and you might need sighted help to navigate the various buttons.

For additional information on the high definition TV conversion check out the following resources.

The Federal Communications Commission provides a basic information sheet about the conversion online at .

The American Association of People with Disabilities discusses the impact of the conversion on the disabled community at .

To request your converter box coupons call 888-388-2009 or visit .

Consumer Reports reviews converter boxes at .

If you purchase a new TV, the Consumer Electronics Association can recycle your old analog set. For information, visit .

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