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Say goodbye to those rabbit ears

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The world of television broadcasting as we know it is about to change. Stations in the United States will no longer broadcast in analog but will switch to all digital broadcasting at midnight on Feb. 17, 2009.

For those Americans who have not invested in cable or satellite providers, it is time to say goodbye to the convenience of “rabbit ears” placed on top of your television.

After February 2009, a digital converter – or a whole new set – will be required to receive television broadcasting.

The decision to use digital over analog was made because digital broadcasting is more efficient and will provide better quality for viewers.

Because it takes up less bandwidth, the space that is freed up through the use of digital broadcasting will leave several unused channels.

Some of those channels will be used by police and fire departments as a communication outlet to inform the public of emergencies.

Additional remaining channels will be auctioned to companies wishing to offer new wireless services.

The transition is proving to be a controversial one among the public.

“I think it’s a good idea,” Jennifer Bilimoria, a University of La Verne graduate student, said. “It’s more uniform for everyone.”

Bilimoria, who is from India, said that they have made this change in India and it is working much better.

Not everyone thinks it is fair to ask Americans to invest in a new device to receive digital broadcasting.

“People who don’t pay for cable or satellite services probably don’t for one or two reasons,” Heather Strayer, a senior at Cal Poly Pomona said. “They either can’t afford it or don’t want it. So it is unfair to them to have to purchase the converter.”

Strayer said the only reason she knew about the upcoming changes in broadcasting is because she purchased a new television last year and was informed of the changes by the salesman.

Americans who pay for cable and satellite services will not be affected. But what about those Americans who own analog television sets and rely on an antenna to receive the basic, free channels?

If they want to continue to receive these channels next year they will have to either check to see if their television already has a digital tuner built in, purchase a new television that was made after 2004, or buy a converter box to guarantee they will receive the digital broadcasts.

If you are unsure if your television has a digital converter built in, it is recommended that you refer to the owner’s manual.

The message is getting out to the public early so that people can prepare for this change before it is too late.

“I heard about it on the local news,” Stephanie Beach, a Pennsylvania resident said.

Beach, who lived in California last year, lived without cable for almost a year.

“I don’t agree with the change because of how the economy is right now,” Beach said.

She feels that asking people to spend more money on a new device is difficult when rising gas prices and the stagnant economy are leaving many people with little extra money.

However, the government is attempting to help those Americans who do not already have a digital converter and now face the burden of purchasing the device.

The National Telecommuni­cations and Information Administration has implemented a TV Converter Box Coupon Program to the public.

People who apply will receive a $40 coupon to help with the cost of the digital converter box.

The converter box is estimated to range from $50 to $70.

Those interested in the coupon program should act quickly as there is only a limited supply available.

Coupons can be requested online at www.dtv2009.gov.

Victoria Allende can be reached at vallende@ulv.edu
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