Television viewers whose sets use rabbit ears or antennae to receive a signal will need to change their change their tuners before Feb. 17, when all channels are set to go digital.
After the digital transition, all full-power TV stations will broadcast only digital signals. The old analog signals will be freed up for emergency services.
The change will affect 12 percent of the population, according to Michael Rupured, a consumer economics specialist with the university’s Cooperative Extension.
People watching analog TV will have to connect to a cable or satellite service, buy a television with a digital tuner or purchase a converter box to keep their televisions working.
“Most people won’t be affected because they get service through cable or satellite,” Rupured said. “Some cable or satellite subscribers might need additional equipment to be ready for the switch though, so check with your service provider.”
If you are not sure whether your television has a digital tuner, check the owner’s manual.
Consumers who want to keep their analog TV sets can buy a converter box, which cost $40-$70 and are available at many mass retailers and electronics stores.
The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration has a coupon program to help off-set the converter box expense, but due to a late surge in coupon requests there is currently a waiting list for the program. Coupon applications and more information is available at www.dtv2009.gov or by calling the 24-hour hotline at 1-(888) 388-2009.