On Feb. 17, 2009, broadcasters will shut off their analog transmitters and go to digital use only.
Those who are not prepared for the change could be without television signals.
This change will impact a relatively small group of television viewers--those who receive their broadcasts using antennae on televisions that are not equipped with digital tuners.
People who receive their television programming from cable and satellite services will not be affected.
The federal government has launched a wide-scale effort to educate viewers about the upcoming change and to provide alternatives to those who need them.
Millions of $40 coupons are available that can be used for analog-to-digital converters that will work with existing television sets. To receive the $40 coupon you must call (888) DTV-2009 or sign up online at www.dtv2009.gov.
Each household can get up to two coupons, but only one per television can be used. Converters will receive digital broadcasts over-the-air and convert them to a format that allows an analog television to display.
The converters cost between $40 and $70 and are available in many retail stores.
Brian Walden with Shuee and Sons Appliances, Greencastle, has seen a number of people come to purchase the converter boxes.
"Although a lot of people are just buying new televisions, we have still sold between 20-25 of the converter boxes," he said. "We do get quite a few questions. None of them are quite the same."
Connecting the converter box is fairly easy according to Walden.
"You just unhook the antennae wire from your television and hook the converter box wires to your set," he explained.
The change has been in the works for several years and came about because the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) wants to free broadcast space for emergency radio communications and other forms of wireless communication.
In 1996 the U.S. Congress authorized the distribution of an additional broadcast channel to each television broadcaster to introduce digital television. At the same time they could continue to use their current analog equipment to broadcast.
The idea is to improve sound and picture quality and to free parts of the broadcast spectrum for public safety.
Digital television (DTV) is a new type of broadcasting technology that turns a television picture and sound into data bits which allows more information to be transmitted faster and with better quality.
DTV allows the same number of stations to broadcast using fewer total channels. It is a more flexible and efficient technology than the current analog system.
DTV allows high definition (sharper picture) as well as multi-casting, which is providing several streams of information on one broadcast channel.
Those with cable or satellite television already have the equipment to receive these multicasts. Only those who use antennae should need to upgrade, and, not necessarily to a new television. Simply buying a converter box should work.