13 Days to Digital Television

There are 13 more days until the analog television signals are shutdown and the conversion to digital television broadcasts is “completed” on Tuesday, February 17, 2009. Estimates have it that as many as 7 to 12 percent of the television viewers who get their TV signals from analog television antennas are unprepared for the switch. That means anyone who doesn’t subscribe to cable, satellite, or some other pay TV service will be getting nothing but static after Feb. 17.

Just a few days ago a bill to postpone the dealine was defeated, but the House of Representatives is set to vote on that digital TV transition bill again today. The suggest new date for conversion is June 12, 2009. 4 more months or 120 days. (Update: The House voted to pass the bill, so the date for analog TV shutdown has been pushed back to June 12, 2009).

Let’s just assume that the bill to delay doesn’t pass, what do the unprepared need to do, and where does the rest of the world stand on conversion from analog to digital TV?

Options for the Unprepared

  1. Sign up for a pay TV service such as cable or satellite
  2. Purchase a digital television set with a digital tuner
  3. Purchase a digital converter box that connects between their existing TV antenna and TV set. (You can get information on the government’s converter coupon program at www.dtv2009.gov)

Last month President-elect Barack Obama called on the Congress to delay the transition to give people more time to prepare. The FCC was offering $40 coupons for the purchase of converter boxes, but those funds have run out, and there is talk about directing some of the financial bailout monies into the program.

US and The Rest of the World

The United States isn’t alone in the digital televison conversion crunch, but if we can make the switch as planned next month, we will be the seventh country in the world to switch, but we will be the first superpower to switch.

There are two bright spots in the US: one is in Hawaii, and the other is in Wilmington, North Carolina. Wilmington television broadcasters and citizens completed the conversion on September 8, 2008, while Hawaii switched just this past Thursday, Jan. 15. There are a few people who are still in need of boxes, but the majority of the citizens were prepared.

Six Other Nations Have Made The Switch

  • Luxembourg was the first country on September 1, 2006.
  • Netherlands moved to digital broadcasting on December 11, 2006. About 90% of the households subscribe to cable.
  • Finland switched on September 1, 2007, but cable TV viewers continued to receive analogue broadcasts until the end of February 2008.
  • Andorra completed its switch-off on September 25, 2007.
  • Sweden used a progressive transition working from region-by-region. The conversion started on Gotland on September 15, 2005, and was completed on October 15, 2007, in Scania and Blekinge. Cable distributors are allowed to continue broadcasting analogue television.
  • Switzerland began the switch on July 24, 2006 in Ticino and completed it on 26 November, 2007.

Other Countries Conversion Plans

Most other nations are shooting for 2010 or 2012 for completing their own conversions from analog to full digital broadcasts. Here’s a rundown on the plans and target for some nations:

  1. Australia has delayed conversion until 2010 for some regions and to 2013 for the rest of the country
  2. Brazil has scheduled for June 29, 2016
  3. Canada plans to finish by August 2011 with minor exceptions in remote areas
  4. Croatia and the Czech Republic plans to cinvert by 2010 and 2011 respectively
  5. Denmark, October 2009
  6. France will have completed the switch-off in 2011
  7. Germany started the switch-off in the Berlin area on November 1, 2002 and had planned to complete the switch by the end of 2008. I’m not certain of the status of that switch at this time.
  8. Greece will switch after 2011
  9. Hong Kong plans to be switched off by 2012
  10. Hungary is scheduled for some time between 2010 and 2013
  11. Ireland‘s goal is set for most of the country by 2010 with the rest to follow by the end of 2012
  12. Japan‘s target date is July 24, 2011
  13. Kenya had plans to complete the switch in 2008 bu I have no further news on their status at this time
  14. Mexico initiated a 20-year plan to switch in 2002 with the target year of 2022 for completion
  15. New Zealand estimates completion by 2013 to 2015
  16. Norway started the witch in March 2008 and will the progress region-by-region as Sweden did. Completion is scheduled for the end of this year
  17. Poland plans for either December 2012 or 2014
  18. Portugal is aiming for 2012
  19. Philippines, December 31, 2015. ABS-CBN, the country’s largest TV network is supply converter boxes to the Metro Manila area
  20. Russia plans to be completed in 2015
  21. South Africa started the switch-off in November 2008 in preparation for the 2010 FIFA World Cup and should be completed by mid 2011
  22. South Korea‘s target date is December 31, 2012
  23. Spain, April 3, 2010
  24. Ukraine, July 2015
  25. United Kingdom starting converting in Wales with the first switch off on March 20, 2005, but they were problems and conversion resumed on October 17, 2007. The rest of the UK is scheduled to be completed in 2012

Is Skylarking Prepared?

My home has three televisions, and at least one of them is safe so far, but I’ve got my doubts about the other two; and we’re taking a “wait and see” approach toward them. We have cable TV (Optimum), but only one set is full digital without a box. Another set is “HD Ready” which means it can display HDTV, but it doesn’t have the tuner necessary.  An add-on box will be needed, which we can get from our cable provider. The third set is completely analog, and unless it gets some sort of box attached to it, it will most likely be completely useless unless we get a converter for the rabbit ears, and I don’t think they make one. The ones I have seen are for outdoor aerial antennas with coaxial connections, not screw terminals.

I’m looking forward to what happens today, and in the week’s ahead.

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