Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Why don't rabbit ears work on my TV anymore?

Television was once transmitted in analog format in the United States.

Image courtesy sarahdeer. Remember these?
However, analog is an inefficient broadcast method and uses a lot of bandwidth.

Worldwide, many countries have begun to make the switch to digital, including the United States in 2009 and Canada in 2011. The Geneva 2006 Agreement sets June 17, 2015 as the date when countries will no longer be required to worry about interfering with their neighboring countries' analog TV stations--a date many are treating as the analog cutoff date.

Proponents of digital television argue that the switch has significant benefits for spectrum efficiency, and that the switchover will free up frequencies for public safety transmissions and expanding wireless Internet access.

In 1996, Congress authorized giving every full power television station another channel so they could transmit analog and digital television signals simultaneously (a "simulcast"). Initially, the Digital Transition and Public Safety Act of 2005 set the date when stations were required to stop transmitting analog signals as February 17, 2009. The 2005 Act also established the DTV Converter Box Coupon Program, which provided people (but not prisons) with up to $80 in coupons to purchase digital-to-analog converter boxes so that they could continue to receive free television broadcasts without needing to purchase cable. The voucher program involved delays and waiting lists, and $40 was not always enough to cover the costs of a converter box. Two weeks before the cutoff date, Congress passed the DTV Delay Act to extend the cutoff date to June 12, 2009, at 11:59 p.m. Many stations went ahead and switched off their analog stations in February, anyway.

The Coupon Program was not the only controversy to plague the Digital Television Transition. The transition mainly affected those who have older television sets and do not pay for cable, and would doubtless affect low-income persons more than higher income persons. Some argued that senior citizens would have difficulty making the transition from analog to digital. Electronics recyclers estimated that one in four households would discard at least one television as a result of the transition. Some rural viewers, who get their TV signal from a translator antenna instead of directly from the station, were unable to receive the digital signal even after installing a converter box--because the translator antennas failed to make the transition.

But don't throw away those rabbit ear dipole antennas yet -- you can still try to use them to pick up a digital signal.

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