Harold F. Shrewsberry, Assistant Inspector General Management with the FCC, visited the Post last week to discuss how those who still use an analog set can purchase a converter box via a governmental redeemable coupon.
To ease the transition from analog to digital, the U.S. government is offering two redeemable $40 coupons per household for TV converter boxes. Despite the extra incentive to switch to digital, only 52 percent of the 1.2 million coupons issued have been used, Shrewsberry said.
For those who still wish to use their coupons, they must do so within 90 days of the issue date before the coupons become void. Shrewsberry stated how the FCC is also urging those who do not need the coupons to order the vouchers in the event that a friend or neighbor could use one if theirs has already expired.
“If you don’t need a coupon or converter box, order the coupon and give it to your neighbor, that’s our message,” Shrewsberry said.
Shrewsberry went on to explain how the elderly or the “technically challenged” will be the ones who will require the most assistance in the process of allocating coupons or the installation of converter boxes. If those who do not need the coupons would donate them, they could be redistributed to those who do need the extra incentives, Shrewsberry explained.
“We’re here to make sure we touched the part of America who needs our efforts in this program,” Shrewsberry explained.
The switch from analog to digital broadcasts is mandated by federal law which cites that the switch will free up airwaves for police, fire, and emergency rescue communications, the FCC stated. Also, the proposed switch will allow programmers to provide better picture and sound quality to viewers.
In preparation for the digital revolution, some U.S. stations are temporarily cutting off their analog signal for two to five minute intervals to gauge the public’s awareness of the Feb. 17 switch. A trial analog cutoff was held on Dec. 17 and another one is anticipated to occur on Jan. 17.
Once the switch from analog to digital is complete, some viewers may see some discrepancy in channels that they traditionally received. Since Ashe County is under the Charlotte Designated Market Area, a 20-county market, they may or may not be able to view channels from out of state or out of market, such as the Bristol or Johnson City family of networks.
One distinct advantage of the digital switch is that stations will broadcast a clearer and sharper image compared to the one they received through the rabbit eared sets. People who purchase and install the converter boxes will need to scan the boxes periodically to ensure that the adaptation works properly.
Those who receive good quality reception on analog channels 2-51 should not need a new antenna, the FCC stated. If consumers’ television sets receive broadcasts from paid providers or have satellite subscription, they will not need to purchase converter boxes as these sources have already prepared for the DTV transition. Cable companies are not required to switch or transition any of their channels to digital. However, if viewers’ analog sets do not receive local broadcast stations through a paid provided, a digital/analog converter box will be necessary.
For more information on how to obtain converter box coupons, visit www.DTV2009.gov or call 1-888-388-2009 or 1-877-530-2634.