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Some homes not ready to convert to digital TV

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Analog-to-digital TV conversion delayed to June

By Scotty McDaniel

Some homes not ready to convert to digital TV

Scott McDaniel

 Digital converter boxes have been flying off the shelves at Radio Shack in recent weeks. Wal-Mart has a stockpile of them.

  "I hate to even guess how many we put out there," said Gene Morris, manager of the Radio Shack in Shelbyville.  

 Just to catch you up, all full-power television stations in the U.S. will stop broadcasting in analog signals and switch to the more efficient, 100 percent digital as a way of freeing up space in the nation's airwaves.   

 That means that any TV not connected to digital signals via cable or satellite – and especially older TVs that don’t have digital tuners -- would require a converter box to remain functional. The government was even providing cash to help households be ready for the switch, which is set for Monday.

But on Feb. 4, the House voted, 264-158, to delay that deadline and give Americans more time to prepare, because many of them were not prepared.  

That’s especially true in Shelby, Spencer and Henry counties, because Morris said many residents of those counties have come to his store and used their government coupons to purchase converter boxes.

Even so, he said, there are quite a few people out in the county who haven't gotten their boxes yet.

 Nationwide estimates put the number of unprepared households in the millions, which is what prompted Congress to push back the deadline to June 12.

But even with more time, there are still some apparent problems. Morris said one issue that people are finding is that owning a converter box doesn't always guarantee someone is prepared for the change from analog to digital signal.

 "The only problem we were having was a lot of people in town have just rabbit ears," he said. "Some might work, some might not be strong enough to get a signal.  

 "Digital signal is like a satellite signal -- you've either got it or you don't."

 For those who don't get a signal through their rabbit ears, Morris said the alternatives are to get an amplified set of rabbit ears or an outdoor antenna.

Other options would be to connect to a cable, satellite or another service, or to get a TV with a digital tuner.

Another problem is that many people are still waiting for their government coupons. The TV Converter Box Coupon Program provides citizens with $40 coupons to help pay for their converter boxes. However, the program reached its $1.34 billion limit last month.

More than 2 million households are on the coupon waiting list -- a number that is quickly rising, based on information from the House Commerce Committee.

Eligible persons can apply for coupons (2 per household) at www.dtv2009.gov.

If households allow their coupons to expire after 90 days, they cannot reapply. As coupons expire, their funds become available for newly distributed coupons.

In the meantime, stores are stocked, loaded, and ready to sell their digital converter boxes.