Digital TV: What You Should Know

Why the switch?
Under legislation passed by Congress – the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 – over-the-air broadcast television stations are required to turn off their analog channels on June 12, 2009, and continue broadcasting exclusively in the digital format.

Since digital television is more efficient than analog television, the analog turn-off will also free up parts of the airwaves to provide wireless spectrum for future innovative services by entrepreneurs.

What are the benefits of DTV?
Digital television allows TV stations to offer a number of new and better services. In addition to providing dramatically better pictures and sound quality, DTV also enables TV stations to provide several channels of television programming at once. This is known as “multicasting.” DTV can also be used to provide data services (such as significantly enhanced closed captioning) that are not possible with analog technology.

Consumers who receive free, over-the-air broadcasting on analog sets will have three options for continuing their television service:

  • Purchase a DTV converter box that will convert the digital signal into analog for an existing television set;
  • Purchase a new television set with a built-in digital tuner; or
  • Subscribe to cable, satellite or a telephone company television service provider if all desired local broadcast stations are carried by that service.

What You Need To Know:

High-definition TV (HDTV) is the best quality DTV.
HDTV’s sound and picture quality are many times better than today’s analog TV. DTV also can be standard definition (SD).

What you need to watch DTV:
DTV (including HDTV) is available over-the-air using a standard antenna or via digital cable or satellite. No matter how you receive your TV signal (cable, satellite or over-the-air), you will need DTV equipment to watch the DTV programming.

DTV equipment may be purchased as an all-in-one or component solution.
"Integrated" DTV sets with built-in tuners are an all-in-one solution for DTV - they include a digital tuner to receive over-the-air DTV broadcasts and a monitor to display the programming.

A "component" solution includes a DTV monitor (screen) without a DTV tuner (these monitors are sometimes labeled "HD Ready"). Monitors must be paired with a cable or satellite set-top box, or stand-alone DTV tuner.

"Digital cable ready" (or "plug-and-play") televisions are also available that can be used to receive digital cable TV without a separate set-top box. A CableCARD that can be plugged into the set is needed for certain cable programming.

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