Analog TV will no longer be broadcast one year from today on February 19th 2009, are you ready for the conversion to digital TV? This may or may not affect you so here's what you need to know to avoid losing TV reception!
The first question to answer is whether this government mandated change to over-the-air digital TV will affect you. If you have any older TV that depends on rabbit ears or external UHF/VHF antennas for analog TV reception, you will no longer get any TV reception a year from today. If you're already using cable or satellite for TV reception, you have nothing to worry about. If you have a newer TV that supports the ATSC standard for either standard definition and/or high definition reception, then skip the coupon section below to the antenna section.
If you have an older TV that relies on analog TV signals, there is good news for you but you better act fast. The US government has a $40 coupon program that can either cover some or all of the cost of a converter box. You need to apply for it here and each household is entitled to two coupons but there are a finite number of coupons so you need to act before they run out. Once you've obtained the coupons in the mail, you can buy one of these certified converter boxes priced between $40 and $70. Update 7:15AM - There are a total of 33.5 million coupons available and as of right now for this update, roughly 3.3 million coupons have already been ordered. Last week the count was 2.9 million ordered.
You're not home free yet since your existing rabbit ears on your TV set won't work anymore. At the very least you'll need an indoor passive antenna or a powered indoor antenna like this Philips amplified UHF/VHF antenna which sells for as little as $20 online or $48 at Circuit City. If you already have one of these antennas you can hook it up and give it a try as soon as you get the coupon and converter box and see if you can get all the digital TV channels you want.
Ideally, you need an outdoor UHF antenna which typically sell for $40 to $80 but the hard part is running the coax cable from the roof to the TV. You'll typically need around 100 feet or more of RG-6 cabling to attach the outdoor antenna to your TV which costs around $20 online. If you already have a roof antenna and the cabling in place, you're really in luck. AntennaWeb.org has some great information on choosing antennas and others pointed out that http://tvfool.com is great too. With a good antenna in place, it will allow you to receive free standard definition digital television over the air. You can even get high definition digital reception with any of the HDTVs sold in the last year for as little as $400.