Digital TV Switch Is Coming

The mandatory switch to digital TV signals will now arrive on June 12, barring any last-minute postponements like the one that pushed it back from its original deadline of February 17.

This time it’s for real. The mandatory switch to digital TV signals will now arrive on June 12, barring any last-minute postponements like the one that pushed it back from its original deadline of February 17. The delay was necessary because of the confusion surrounding the switch and because millions of consumers weren’t ready for it.

If you get your TV signal through cable or satellite, you don’t have to do anything. You’re already getting a digital signal and the switch won’t affect your TV viewing. You’re also probably OK if your TV set was bought after mid-2007; after March 1 of that year TV makers were required to produce only digital-ready sets. But that still leaves almost 20 million viewers who rely on rooftop or rabbit-ear TV antennas in a bind, according to many consumer advocates. Their choices are either to buy a new TV that can handle a digital signal or to buy a converter box that will unscramble the digital signal so it can be seen on their old analog TV.

The cost of a converter box can range from $40 to $100, but analog TV owners can get a coupon worth $40 from the federal government. (For more information on the DTV switch and the coupon program, go to www.dtv2009.gov.) Consumers are allowed to request up to two coupons per household. Also, because most digital signals use the ultrahigh frequency band, they are more likely to be affected by obstructions like trees or buildings, which means that many TV viewers may have to buy a new antenna along with the converter box.