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New Year to bring digital TV change


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Imlay City Radio Shack’s Randy Russell holds one of the converter boxes that will allow analog television owners to take advantage of digital quality. photo by Tom Wearing.

December 31, 2008
TRI-CITY AREA — The New Year is being viewed by many as a harbinger of better things to come — including enhanced television reception.

On Feb. 17, 2009, TV stations across the nation will make the transition from analog broadcasting to all-digital (DTV) technology.

The advanced technology will provide TV viewers with better picture and sound quality, more programming options and interactive capabilities.

Area residents who already subscribe to cable or satellite services will experience no change in services, providing local channels are part of their packages. However, consumers who have analog televisions and rely on antennas or "rabbit ears" to receive their signal will need to acquire digital-to-analog converter boxes.

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Up until March 31, 2009, all American households are eligible to request up to two coupons worth $40 apiece toward the purchase of converter boxes. Information about the coupon program can be found at: www.DTW2009.gov. or by calling 1-888-225-5322.

Converter boxes, antennas and other equipment may also be purchased at area stores.

The Radio Shack in Imlay City is offering converter boxes for prices ranging from $49.99 to $59.99. A variety of antennas are also available to ensure excellent reception after the changeover.

Radio Shack employee Randy Russell says business has been brisk as local residents scurry to upgrade before the Feb. 17 transition.

Russell has noted increased interest in "digital stream" and Zenith "pass-through" technology, which allow viewers to continue watching Canadian television stations.

"There is a button you can hit to access those (Canadian) stations," said Russell, who notes that Canada is not expected to make the switch to digital until 2010.

Russell warns that if you are currently getting a fuzzy signal on a particular channel, that channel could be lost once digital goes into effect.

"There are some negatives," says Russell, "but once you get the signal the quality is fantastic. The picture quality is much clearer. It also helps to have a nice antenna for best results."

Russell says Radio Shack employees are willing to assist customers wishing to obtain coupons for converter boxes through the federal program. "We can sign them up on line at this store," says Russell.

One by-product of the new technology, says Russell, is that some satellite customers are canceling their service after converting to DTV.

"Some people are actually dropping their (satellite) dishes because the signal they're getting is so good," he says. "Most people are happy with the results. Some figure they can save $30 or more a month."

Russell points out that even if you already subscribe to a satellite or cable service, you may need new DTV equipment to view "high definition" programming. Those customers are advised to consult with their service provider.

For more information about the transition from analog to digital television, call the Imlay City Radio Shack at 810-721-8030.

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