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How to Be Sure You’re Digital Ready

And what to do if you’re not.

With TV transitioning from analog to digital on Friday, 2.5 percent of the nation’s households still lack the proper equipment for the change and another 8.3 percent may face serious problems in getting a signal as well.

So with millions of households still ill equipped, how do you digitize your own television experience?

There are two simple methods: either buy a digital TV or be signed up with a cable provider like Time Warner or a satellite provider like DirecTV, who handle it for you automatically.

 

Since March 2007, all new TVs have been required to have digital tuners. Stores can still sell TVs with analog tuners, but must clearly label them as such. For those with a satellite or cable provider, there is one additional wrinkle — all TV sets must now be connected to the service.

If you are not signed up with cable or satellite, you’ll need a converter box and possibly an antenna.

Converter boxes can be purchased at electronic appliance stores for $40 to $70 — though the government will cover most, if not all, of the cost, with coupons, offered by dtv.gov. Households may receive up to two coupons, worth $40 each. The coupons are available through July 31, but may run out before then due to high demand.

The FCC says that most current antennas should work with converter boxes, but in some cases a new or extra antenna may be needed to receive both VHF and UHF channels. Outside antennas are recommended, except in areas with stronger signals. DTV.gov also offers “reception maps” to guide consumers on which type of antenna they need.
 

Owners of analog TVs face yet another change after the switch. They must rescan for channels on Saturday because when TV stations shut off their signal on Friday, many will shift the frequency of their analog signal. This means that the frequency on Thursday will be different from the frequency on Saturday.