FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 6, 2008
South Texans who rely on over-the-air broadcasting are soon to be impacted by a big change in the television world.
The nationwide switch from analog to digital television (DTV) that will occur on Feb. 17, 2009, may affect over 100,000 homes in our area. Since these households access their TV programs through rabbit ears instead of cable or satellite, it is important that they know the options that are available.
A DTV converter box can be purchased that will transform the digital signal into analog for an existing analog television set. Sometimes referred to as a set-top box, this electronic device can make the new digital signal viewable on an older analog television.
Converter boxes are now available for purchase at most major electronics retailers and cost between $40 and $70. To help cover the cost of the converter box, the U.S. Department of Commerce is offering two converter box coupons, valued at $40 each, to every household in the country. The coupons expire 90 days after the date they are mailed, and can be redeemed at most retail electronics stores, and some large supermarkets.
An important tidbit for consumers is to make sure that their current TV doesn't have a built-in digital tuner before deciding to purchase a new digital TV. Most sets sold in the last few years that are larger than 27 inches will likely have a digital tuner.
Another choice is to subscribe to cable, satellite or a telephone company television service provider. No additional equipment is required for consumers who decide to go this route. However, even those who subscribe to a television service provider may have a television set in a second bedroom or kitchen that will be impacted.
These are technologically exciting times we're living in. Changes in how we do things electronically are fast and frequent. I am pleased, though, that there are choices for consumers, especially those who are financially strapped.
Digital television is considered the most significant upgrade in television since color TV, so giving low-income individuals and families like those in South Texas access to DTV is good consumer policy.
One cannot argue against the improvement of DTV: crystal clear pictures and CD quality sound; more choices through additional digital side channels - such as all weather or all traffic channels; and the capability of high-definition broadcasting.
More than 90 percent of full-power television stations in the country are already broadcasting in digital, but many consumers are not yet aware of it or the February 2009 target date.
Nationally, the transition will directly impact more than 69 million television sets at risk of losing their signals after Feb. 17, 2009, if the owners of these sets do not make the transition to DTV.
While there is still time to decide how to navigate the digital television transition, it's important to at least start thinking now about which option will work best. Consumers are encouraged to apply early for the converter box coupons and shop around for the best deal. Anyone from one of the 19.6 million households that rely exclusively on free, over-the-air broadcasts received through a rooftop or set-top antenna should act without delay. Perhaps elderly relatives or neighbors could use a friendly hand in tackling this conversion.
The digital television transition is coming, and it means a better quality television experience. But consumers who don't prepare in advance risk losing their free television programming. Remember, the early bird catches the DTV worm.
To receive more information about the converter box coupon program or to apply, individuals can either visit www.DTV2009.gov or call 1 (888) DTV-2009 in English or Spanish. For additional help or questions, please call Sen. Lucio's Brownsville District Office at 956-548-0227 or the Weslaco District Office at 956-968-9927.
As always, if you have any input or questions regarding these or other matters, please do not hesitate to contact Doris Sanchez, my press secretary, 512-463-0385.