At midnight on Feb. 17, America will have made the transition from analog to digital broadcast television.
According to a Nielsen Co. survey, many TV viewers are unprepared for the change; more than 9 million households in the United States would have no television signal if the switch occurred today, and another 12.6 million households have at least one TV set that will no longer work after the switch.
How do you know if your television set will be affected? If you already subscribe to a cable or satellite service, you're in the clear; these services wont be affected by the switch. You'll also be ready if you have purchased a new television since March 2007; if you have an earlier model, check the owner's manual to confirm that it has a digital tuner installed. All televisions sold today have digital tuners (also known as ATSC tuners), which can receive digital signals over the air.
If you don't subscribe to a pay TV service or don't have a new, digital television, you'll need to add a converter box to continue receiving a television signal. The federal government has set up a program to help households obtain converter boxes. Until March 31, households can request up to two coupons worth $40 each that can be used toward the cost of any eligible converter boxes. For details, visit www.dtv2009.gov, the federal government's TV Converter Box Coupon Program website, or call (888) 388-2009.