A digital TV converter is an electronic device that converts digital images and sounds into an analog signal. These devices have been in high demand since the announcement of the digital switchover in American broadcast television. The federal government even sponsored a program to cover most of the cost of a digital TV converter for qualified individuals as they prepared for the switch.
The Digital TV Converter Box Coupon Program was created by Congress to ensure that all consumers still using analog antennas on their televisions would have an affordable way to make the switch. Through this program, each household could obtain up to two coupons each worth $40. These coupons could then be applied to the cost of a digital TV converter box.
Per United States Congress mandate, 17 February 2009 was designated the last day for TV stations to broadcast analog signals. This was later extended to 12 June 2009 in an effort to ensure that all of the American households who wanted to be prepared for the switch had time to make preparations. Nearly every television set that was manufactured after 2007 is equipped to receive digital programming. In addition, anyone with a cable or satellite box is already receiving digital programming through that converter box. Thus, the switch did not affect as many households as it was originally thought it would.
Digital television has several advantages over analog television. The biggest advantage is that digital channels take up less bandwidth than analog channels, meaning that more digital channels can be offered in the same bandwidth. Another plus is that those extra airwaves can be used for cell phone or wireless Internet bandwidth.
Digital television responds to signal interference differently than analog television. Analog signal will experience the “ghosting” of images, feedback noise and snow when the signal is weak or is experiencing interference. Digital television will resist these side effects for much longer. While this is a plus in some ways, if the signal is beyond usable, digital television will simply freeze on the last readable frame, or black out completely. Because of this, in areas where the signal is weak, it often means that no picture at all can be received, whereas an analog TV in the same area could at least get some sort of image. Some people, therefore, actually find this to be a disadvantage.
Digital programming also gives more options to those who are using antenna television, and not paying for premium television service. Using a television with a built in digital tuner, or a digital TV converter, a consumer can watch many more free television stations. Still, with the popularity of cable and satellite TV, the percentage of American households that still watch antenna television is quite low.