What you can do to aid the conversion to digital TV

By Xin Lu on 14 January 2009 (Updated 16 November 2011) 11 comments

The conversion from analog TV to digital TV was scheduled to happen on February 17th, but now it seems like it will be delayed due to various issues with the coupon program and general consumer education.  Broadcasters are quite displeased with this delay because they have been looking forward to the savings they would reap from getting rid of analog transmitters and many consumers are simply confused as to what they are supposed to do.   Here are a few things  you can do to help with this transition.

1. Give your extra coupons away - Right now consumers are being put on waiting lists because the government's coupon program is tapped out.  In case you only used one of your coupons for a converter, you could give the other one away to someone who needs it.  You can organize a collection at your local church or school and give the coupons to the people  that really need them. 

2. Educate those you know with old TVs - Tell them that they do not need to buy a new TV and tell them about the digital converter boxes.  It seems that a lot of people are abandoning their working TVs for new sets.  This is good for the retail stores, but not everyone can afford a new TV right now. 

3. Help someone purchase a digital converter -  Rather than giving out your coupons, you could just go out there and buy a converter box that is free after the rebate and give the box to someone who needs it.  People who are not up to date with all the latest gadgetry may find electronics stores very intimidating and could be suckered into buying more expensive things.   It may be more helpful if you could save them the hassle. 

4. Help people physically with setup - There may be someone you know who does not understand this new technological mumbo jumbo even if he or she had the converter box in hand.  In that case you could help them out by setting it up for them.  It does not take long to plug in a few cords and you will feel warm and fuzzy inside for saving someone's TV.

Many of us probably have no issues with this transition because we have relatively new TVs, but many elderly people depend on their old analog TVs for their entertainment and information.  So before they are met with a blank screen, go out and help someone amidst this technological leap forward.

 

 

 

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Guest's picture
poor boomer

What I don't understand about the coupon program being tapped out:

If someone receives two of the $40 vouchers, but does not redeem either, what's the cost to the government?

The "tapped out" reports suggest that somehow the government has spent or lost $80 when the coupons were issued, but if they were not redeemed, wouldn't that sum be 'recovered'?

Guest's picture

The $40 coupons expire 90 days from issue. But during that time the government has to assume that you'll redeem them. Even though this transition has been in the planning stages for more than twelve years people waited until the very last minute to order the coupons. So the value of all the coupons currently in circulation exceeds the statutory spending cap authorized by Congress. As unredeemed coupons expire the people on the waiting list will be issued new coupons.

The big problem with this whole coupon business though is that the converters cost more than $40, and most folks will have to purchase a new antenna too. A good digital TV antenna can run another $75 bucks. Even if you have a newer, digital compatible TV, you still need the antenna, which is not covered by the coupon program.

It should be noted too that subscribers to cable, satellite, or Fios TV are not impacted by the digital transition. Their set top boxes will still work just fine after 2/17.

Guest's picture
Barbara

I'm so bothered by the reasons for the delay. yes, I understand that some people can't afford it, some don't understand the technology aspect, etc. But seriously? This has been all over the media for a solid year, warning people they need to upgrade or buy the conversion, and people still haven't done it. If people were too lazy to do it before (or enlist help if they couldn't do it themselves) then tough--why make other people sit around and wait?

Ok, sorry. rant over.

Linsey Knerl's picture

I was one of those who signed up very early, and got my coupons before everyone else I know.  The downside?  Many of the converter boxes weren't available in my area (the good ones anyway.)  Those that I could find weren't anywhere close to $40.  People I know that waited now have access to some in the $40-49 range plus free shipping at Amazon.com (and you can redeem the card online.)

My card ended up expiring because the two or three models that I could get would've cost me almost $60 out of pocket and they got horrible reviews.  I guess being early to the party doesn't always have it's advantages.

Linsey Knerl

Guest's picture
Fitch

The top, most responsible thing you can really do is help others determine whether they even need the coupons.

Over the holidays, I found out that so many friends and relatives who had cable or satellite still thought they needed to get a new box or a converter box, many assuming they needed to to 'something' to view content, after February.

Needless to say, the fact that they ordered coupons was a big waste and are the cause for a possible delay. (I say possible 'cause FCC Chairman Kevin Martin today gave 50/50 odds that DTV date will be extended.)

Guest's picture
Guest

I'm wondering how people feel about my converter box strategy.

Out of work and savings dwindling, I applied for a coupon in December. I think I can maintain my cable until March or April but wanted a converter box to use as I sink deeper into poverty. If that takes months longer, am I wrong to hoard the box even though I still have cable? Should people worried about being laid off or newly laid off apply for coupons even while still affording cable? Could this be why the government is running out of money? I live in a major city that gets no TV reception at all with out cable. Antennas are useless, too much interference. I don't want to lose all access to TV just because I can't afford cable. But I don't want to feel like a cheat either.

Interested in what you think,

Guest's picture
Guest

I just wanted to say that there is NO need for a new "digital" antenna. This is a marketing gimmick. Any existing antenna that works will still work - in fact, foil and wire coat hangers will work as well.

For more info:
http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/dtvantennas.html

Guest's picture
JW

I have an HDTV with a tuner. I pick up signals with rabbit ears. The TV channels are now 7-1, 7-2, 7-3 instead of just Channel 7. Does anyone know how the heck you program VCRS to record on these things. I still have my VCR on my analog TV but what happens after the switch?

Guest's picture
Guest

After the switch you will not be able to use your vcr's tuner. Instead, you will be using the tuner of your hdtv and sending the output of the tv to your vcr to record.

The biggest problem with this setup is that your tuner needs to be set on the channel you want to record as the vcr will no longer have the ability the change the channel.

Interesting hidden cost that I hadn't thought of before!

Guest's picture
Anne

I've set up 5 boxes now (2 pieces of junk that my grandparents were given for their coupons and 3 boxes that actually functioned). Your grandparents/elderly relatives/elderly neighbors might be more techy than mine. But for my 80-something grandparents the set up was well beyond what they were capable of managing. They don't have a computer; have never had cable; and just want to watch the news and sports. Most of the reviews for boxes were only available online and the well-reviewed model I ended up getting them was only available online. Woe to those without grandchildren or neighbors?

I'm still having trouble figuring out how to get a decent signal in the Chicago suburbs. They must be in a lousy reception area.

I would also add that the hideously bad remotes that came with the boxes are not at all appropriate for those with bad eyesight and/or arthritis. But I haven't had any luck getting a universal remote to "talk" to the boxes yet. Your mileage may vary; it's worth a try.

Guest's picture
Barrington Mom

Anne-

I have had the same problem as your grandparents. We set up our box in January 2009. I could not belive how many channels we had, it was like getting cable for free! We had all the major channels except a couple, but I figured that would straighten out once the February conversion occurred. But then my kids started noticing we were losing channels. I swapped that box for the other one we had (for our other TV). It made no difference. Now we are down to essentially one station which occassionally changes, and about 11 pm every night we seems to be able to pick up another one or two channels. I was ready to get a new anntenae, but my son indicated one of his friends who lives even further out from the City, in the same direction from the broadcasting locations, gets great reception with just rabbits ears.

I don't know if the stations made changes in thier broadcasting that effected my reception, but I am hesistant to go through the cost and trouble to buy a new anntenae and install it on my roof if I am not assured it is going to make a difference...