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DTV Delay act confusion

After many attempts to delay the DTV transition, President Obama signed the delay into law on Feb 11th, 2009, The transition was originally supposed to take place on February 17th, 2009. This transition had been planned for a long time, and there was a major failure to educate the public and prepare everyone for this transition to take place. So, because the public is not ready, what are we to do? Howabout we delay the transition? well, yes, and no. The transition delay has been approved, however they botched the delay, and instead of just delaying the entire transition… they did this:

Congress did not require stations to continue broadcasting in analog after February 17th, and stations may choose to complete their transition, and stop broadcasting in analog, before June 12th. – FCC Website

Talk about a way to get everyone all messed up. Fortunately it appears that the first stage of the transition went well. Many stations will be required to not just turn off there analog transmissions when they do the switch, but also switch transmission lines and frequencies of their digital transmissions at the same time, leading to several reasons for the stations to want to switch before June 12th:

  1. Pre-Scheduled tower work and staffing for the transition
  2. Decrease in power consumption requirements for transmission services
  3. Pre-existing property agreements for those switching transmitter locations

Not to mention all of those who participated in the FCC’s spectrum auction that would like to be able to occupy their newly purchased spectrum sooner rather than later.

A total of 641 of television stations took advantage of the flexibility afforded them by law to transition to digital broadcasting as of Tuesday. Nearly two-thirds of the nation’s 1800 full-power commercial stations chose to continue broadcasting analog signals so that consumers unprepared for the transition can take advantage of the additional time afforded by the new DTV Delay Act to prepare. The law extended the deadline from Feb. 17 to June 12. – FCC Web site

This has all been added on top of the already super-confusing state of what consumers need to know about the DTV transition. Almost everyone I have talked with is in some way confused about what this transition means to them. Here is the lowdown.

  • This transition ONLY effects those people who receive their Television signals over-the-air from an antenna. Either from an antenna on the roof or “rabbit ears”
  • This transition will NOT affect you if you receive your television signals from the cable company, your telephone company or a satellite provider no matter what type of television you use or if you use a cable box or not.
  • This transition does NOT mean you need to buy a new TV
  • This transition does NOT mean you need to get cable if you didn’t have it before
  • This transition does NOT mean you need to upgrade to “digital cable”
  • If you have a television, and use an antenna to receive your local stations, you MUST have an ATSC tuner to continue your reception after those stations turn off the older analog transmitters.
  • Most new televisions have an ATSC tuner built in.
  • You can get an external ATSC tuner to use with your current television, at a relatively low cost (or for free if you were lucky enough to get a coupon).

Should be easy enough, right? Well, Its been kind of frustrating to see commercials for our local cable company saying that if you sign up with them, they will take care of the DTV transition for you… which they will, but if you don’t have cable currently, a converter box is going to be MUCH cheaper than signing up for even the most basic of cable packages. Also, I have heard several sales people at retailers trying to pitch that you MUST buy a new television in order to continue getting television, regardless of how you get it, even if you are already a cable subscriber. I find this sort of deception toward the public repulsive at best.

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