On Feb. 17, 2009, analog television broadcasts will cease. As mandated by Congress, broadcasters must switch from analog to digital broadcasts to free additional spectrum for the nation’s first responders. According to the National Association of Broadcasters, over 70 million television sets still rely on an analog signal for television service; of which 20 million households rely upon “over-the-air” analog broadcast for their television service, and an additional 14 million households still use an analog television somewhere in their home.
Why Is the Switch to a Digital Format Important?
Because digital broadcasts use smaller segments of spectrum than analog broadcasts, the digital transition will free additional spectrum for public safety agencies and the private sector. The conversion will produce an additional 108 MHz (698-806 MHz or 700 MHz spectrum band) that may be used by public safety services and by the private sector. Of the 108 MHz available under the digital transition, 24 MHz is allocated for public safety agencies, 36 MHz is allocated to the private sector, and the remaining available spectrum will be auctioned off by January 2008.
Consumers who own analog televisions will have several choices. A consumer can: purchase an analog-to-digital converter box to continue using their analog television; purchase a digital television set; subscribe to cable or satellite services (households that subscribe to cable or satellite services should check with their provider to determine whether new equipment is otherwise required); or choose not to use their analog television set. Congress has created a program to help consumers with the first option.
Digital-to-Analog Converter Box Coupon Program
To help consumers with the analog-to-digital transition, Congress created the Digital-to-Analog Converter Box Coupon Program. The two-phase program, administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), allows households to apply for up to two $40 coupons, on a first-come, first-served basis, that may used to purchase a digital-to-analog converter box from a certified retailer. Coupons are valid for three months after issuance and may not be combined to purchase one converter box. The coupon program begins Jan. 1, 2008.
Order a Converter Box Coupon or call 1-888-388-2009.
Of the $1.5 billion allocated to the coupon program, $990 million may be used by the NTIA to provide coupons. If NTIA determines that the $990 million is insufficient to fill requests for coupons, it may certify to Congress that additional funds are needed, and an additional $510 million may be used to fund the second phase of the program.
The second phase will be limited to the approximately 20 million households that rely on an “over-the-air” analog broadcast for their television service. Households that apply for a coupon under the second phase of the program must certify to NTIA that they do not otherwise subscribe to cable, satellite or any other subscription television service.
Retailer Disclosure Requirements
On April 25, 2007, to inform consumers of the digital transition, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued an order (FCC 07-69, 47 C.F.R. § 15.117(k)) that requires retailers to disclose to consumers that a television does not include a digital tuner at the point of sale and that a converter box will be needed to use the television after Feb. 17, 2009. As a result, at least one major retailer will no longer sell analog television sets.