I’ve been asked about this issue several times. To keep it simple:
No you don’t have to buy a new $1500 HD television before February 17, 2009, and throw away your old TV.
What is happening is that the over the air (OTA) television stations will no longer be broadcasting in analog. They must begin broadcasting digitally. That’s all it means.
FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions):
Q. What if I am on cable or satellite (like DishNetwork)?
A. Then you don’t have to worry about anything unless you also use rabbit ears.
Q. If I have an older analog television, will I have to throw it away after February 17, 2009?
A. Nope. You can purchase a digital-to-analog converter box to continue using your rabbit ears.
Q. Do I have to buy the digital-to-analog converter box?
A. No – If you have a TV imported after March 1, 2007, then by law it has a digital tuner built-in.
Q. How much does the box cost?
A. The price is expected to be around $60, but the Feds are providing coupons to everyone worth $40 to offset the cost. That brings your total outlay to about $20.
Q. The salesman at <> said I had to buy a new HD TV or I won’t be able to watch television much longer.
A. The salespeople at those stores are typically very ignorant of technology and/or liars.
Q. Why is the Federal government mandating this?
A. “…because all-digital broadcasting will free up frequencies for public safety communications (such as police, fire, and emergency rescue). Also, digital is a more efficient transmission technology that allows broadcast stations to offer improved picture and sound quality, as well as offer more programming options for consumers through multiple broadcast streams (multicasting). In addition, some of the freed up frequencies will be used for advanced commercial wireless services for consumers.”
Q. Who is going to buy up the spectrum?
A. Hopefully Google!
FCC Consumer Facts
Google’s Public Policy Blog
Official Google Blog – Who’s going to win the spectrum auction?
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About the 700-MHz Auction but Were Afraid to Ask: Expert Op-Ed
700 MHz Explained in 10 Steps