The Big Switch: Digital Converter Boxes Available - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

The Big Switch: Digital Converter Boxes Available

A Magnavox converter box available at Wal-Mart for under $50, minus the instant $40 discount if you have a coupon. A Magnavox converter box available at Wal-Mart for under $50, minus the instant $40 discount if you have a coupon.

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Are you ready for the Big Switch? One year from yesterday, all TV broadcasts will switch from analog to digital.

Locally, Comcast, Hargray, Dish Network, and Direct TV have assured WTOC this won't affect their customers, but if you still use an antenna, you'll need a converter box to keep watching.

Now, they're available. Basically, you plug your antenna in the box, then plug the box into your TV and you can start watching DTV.

DTV, by the way, is not the same as HDTV. High-definition television is all the rage, and all HDTVs are digital. "Flat panels or flat screens, definitely the new craze," said Adam Gipson, manager at a Savannah Wal-Mart. "Outsell everything else three to one."

But even if you choose a more affordable standard-definition TV, all new TVs can receive digital transmissions. TVs manufactured or imported after March 1, 2007, are required by law to have  digital tuners in them, so they will be ready.

That's important, since WTOC and all full-power broadcasters are turning off their analog broadcasts in just under a year.

"If you don't have cable or satellite, you're not going to be able to receive a regular TV signal that comes to your house," explained Gipson. "So there's a couple of options, either switch to digital or switch to cable. You can switch to a new TV if you like. Or a converter box."

The small, inexpensive converter boxes are now arriving on store shelves. They'll keep older TVs working after the Big Switch. And the government will even help you pay for it with a free coupon.

"The price of the converter box is $49.87. The coupon's for $40. They work at the register, just like a gift card. It takes forty dollars off the price right there," said Gipson.

We purchased a converter box and hooked it up to an old, analog television and an exterior antenna and were able to receive our over-the-air digital broadcast. It displayed as channel 11.1. Another great thing about DTV: multicasting. We're also able to transmit weather information at the same time on channel 11.2.

In the future, we'll be able to bring you more channels. Maybe another reason not to wait till next year to make the switch.

"We're probably selling right now about ten to 15 [converter boxes] a week," said Gipson.

To take advantage of the $40 coupon, call 1.888.DTV.2009, or visit www.dtv2009.gov.

Now if you took the plunge early and didn't take advantage of the government's coupon program, Wal-Mart says it will refund you the $40, if of course you bring your receipt and the coupon in. So just check with your retailer.

Reported by: Charles Gray, cgray@wtoc.com

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