By Johnny Jackson
Gov. Sonny Perdue and U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez are urging television watchers to prepare for the upcoming digital television transition, Feb. 17, 2009.
Consumers can apply for coupons to be used toward the purchase of two digital-to-analog converter boxes. The transition requires full-power, television stations to stop analog broadcasts and switch to digital.
"An estimated 300,000 households in Georgia will be affected by the transition from analog to digital television, and we want to make sure each of these households is fully prepared," Perdue said.
According to the National Association of Broadcasters, nearly 10 percent of Georgia households use only analog television.
In metro Atlanta, 169,824 households use analog. More than 125,000 converter box coupons have been redeemed statewide, with nearly 80,000 of them coming from metro Atlanta residents. Nationally, more than 8.2 million coupons have been redeemed.
"I encourage all Georgia residents who may need a converter box to apply for coupons now and redeem them within 90 days," Gutierrez added. "By taking action now, over-the-air consumers will receive a better TV picture and more channels and will not lose their television service when the transition takes place in just six months."
With about six months to go before the transition, consumers receiving free over-the-air television on older TV sets will need to act to ensure their televisions continue to work when broadcasting goes all digital.
Viewers who are connected to cable, satellite, or other pay television services do not need to take any action. Viewers with over-the-air television need to make one of three choices: connect their televisions to cable, satellite, or pay television services; replace their current televisions with a digital television sets; or use a television converter box.
For consumers who choose the converter box option, the U.S. Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Television Converter Box Coupon Program permits all households to request up to two coupons (worth $80 combined) toward the purchase of a certified converter box.
Consumers can purchase a converter box at one of more than 26,000 participating local, online, or phone retailers. Officials warn that coupon applications can take several weeks to process and mail. Consumers opting to purchase a converter box should act as soon as possible and call ahead to ensure that their desired converter box is available. Boxes are selling for between $45 and $70.
Converter boxes have been selling well at the Best Buy electronics store in McDonough, according Ski Neely, senior sales representative in the store's Home Theater Department. At Best Buy, converter boxes range up to about $59 per box, depending on make and model.
"We really try to educate them as much as possible," Neely said. "The population of people who have older TVs are usually in the older population. We provide booklets and pamphlets on the digital transition as well. And they can always come in, if they need any help."
The transition offers consumers a clearer picture, more programming choices and will free up the airwaves for better communications among emergency first responders and new telecommunications services.
Consumers may learn more and apply for coupons online at www.DTV2009.gov; by phone at 1-888-DTV-2009 (1-888-388-2009); via fax at 1-877- DTV-4ME2 (1-877-388-4632); or by mail to P.O. BOX 2000, Portland, OR, 97208-2000.
Deaf or hard of hearing callers may dial 1-877-530-2634 (English TTY) or 1-866-495-1161 (Spanish TTY).
The Digital Television Transition and Public Safety Act of 2005 requires full-power television stations to stop analog broadcasts and switch to digital after Feb. 17, 2009. The Act also authorizes Commerce's NTIA to create the coupon program, which is funded by the $19 billion airwaves auction -- and not tax dollars.
Consumers should receive a list of eligible converter boxes and participating retailers with their coupons. Coupons expire 90 days after they are mailed, and only one coupon can be used to purchase each coupon-eligible converter box.
On the net:
Digital Television: www.dtv.gov