The Clock Runs Out on U.S. Analog Television

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Tomorrow is June 12—do you know what that means? If you still receive television using traditional analog over-the-air broadcasts, your television will pick up nothing but snow starting tomorrow. Although stations are staggering their shutoffs a little bit, by mid-day on June 12 virtually all analog television transmission in the United States should be shut down, in favor of all-digital broadcasting.

Television viewers who receive cable or satellite service are unaffected by the transition; similarly, consumers who have TVs with digital tuners or who have purchased a DTV converter box for an older analog TV will be able to receive digital television broadcasts.

The United States was originally due to shut down analog television broadcasts in February, but the Obama administration pushed the transition back to June for a variety of reasons—one of them being that the government program offering coupons good towards the purchase of converter boxes ran out of money, leaving many disadvantaged and low-income TV viewers without much means to upgrade their televisions. Even still, a recent survey of almost 1,000 households from research firm SmithGeiger indicates more than two million U.S. households still aren’t ready for the digital TV transition.

The frequencies that will be freed up by the shutdown of analog TV broadcasts will be used to deploy a number of services, including 3G and 4G mobile broadband services. The government has already auctioned off spectrum licenses around the country; the big winners were Verizon and AT&T.

U.S. households who need to convert to digital TV can request up to two coupons good for $40 towards the purchase of DTV converter equipment up until July 31, 2009; the coupons most be used within 90 days of mailing. Converters typically cost between $40 and $70. Detailed information on the DTV transition and applying for coupons is available from the government’s digital TV transition Web site.