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Mary Robinson is all about real-world information on the switch to digital television signals. The success of the DTV switch will depend on regular folks understanding new technology and getting it running in their homes. Ms. Robinson is weighing in on those nitty-gritty details, sharing her enthusiasm for TV-signal technology with those who are less technically inclined. She’s developed an expertise through years of hands-on experimentation, pulling in signals from the rooftop of her Texas home. Now she’s a resource for consumers struggling with the digital switch. We discovered Mary right here on TVWeek.com, where she reliably dispensed information in the comments section of this story, First Digital TV Converter Box Wins Government Approval about the digital switch. Let’s keep the conversation rolling!

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A Box With a Catch

August 8, 2008 4:46 PM

According to the Leichtman Research Group, there are 70 million televisions in the U.S. that depend on an antenna for TV programming. That is about 34% of all televisions in the country, and about half of them are not ready for the conversion to digital broadcasting.

There is a warning being issued by the Albany, Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse, New York Better Business Bureau (BBB) that warns of a scam being advertised around the country. I personally have seen this ad in one of the largest newspapers here in the state of Texas.

The name of the company is Universal TechTronics, although it may well go by many other names. They offer a product called the "Miracle Clearveiw TV" converter box for free to the public. They advertise that the Miracle Clearveiw TV "receives channels for free" and that there is "no need to pay for cable" to get the new digital picture quality and sound. They claim that the public is to get "free TV without government coupon!"

The catch is they require the purchase of a 5 year warranty for $59 to get the "free" converter box. With the shipping and handling fees, the total cost approaches $100.

The BBB believes that the same or similar converter boxes can be purchased with the government coupon for about $20.

Make no mistake, that although they allude to the idea that the public can receive digital cable with the box, the box is for digital over the air broadcasts only.

If you have not already done so, I encourage everyone to go ahead and order your coupons and research the available converter boxes at the www.dtv2009.gov Web site.

And remember, if you get any of your programming from a low power television station, try to obtain a converter box that allows pass through of the analog signal. Please support your local independent low-power television broadcasters, for they are going to have a rough time of it after the conversion to digital.

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Comments (2)

antennaguy:

Consumer Reports has just upgraded their ratings on some of the available converter boxes at:
http://blogs.consumerreports.org/electronics/2008/08/ratings-of-dtv.html

While cable and satellite program providers will continue to serve the great majority of homes as the primary signal source, missing HD local reception, compression issues, higher costs, billing add-ons, service outages, contact difficulties, in-home service waits and no shows have left many of these subscribers looking to OTA antennas as a good, alternative and Off-Air viewers happy with their free programming.
But TV reception starts with the right antenna and Off-Air TV is FREE.

Viewers should certainly try their old antenna first. It’s true that any of these older antennas will pick up some signals, maybe all the broadcast signals a viewer wants to receive, depending on their location. If they’re getting all the OTA channels they want, than they’re good to go.

While Antennas can’t tell the difference between analog and digital signals, there are definitely certain models which have higher DTV batting averages than others. Not all antennas are equally suited for DTV. A percentage of viewers will require something a little more tailored for DTV reception.

With one of the newer and smaller OTA antennas, with greatly improved performance, power and aesthetics, viewers may also be able to receive out-of-town channels, carrying blacked out sports programs not available locally, several additional sub-channels or network broadcasts. And for those with an HDTV, almost completely uncompressed HD broadcasts (unlike cable or satellite).

OTA viewers can go to antennapoint.com to see quickly what stations are available to them, the distance, and compass heading to help in choosing and aiming their antenna. And if they decide to buy a newer antenna, they should buy it from a source that will completely refund their purchase price, no questions asked, if it doesn’t do the job.

mary... the cat lady:

Hey antennaguy,
I agree with everything you have stated. First try the antenna you have, but also check to see what else is out there, maybe just beyond your reception horizon. We have talked in the different forums before about making sure you can return an antenna if it doesn't get you the signals you are seeking.
I thank you also for the heads up on the antenna point web site. I am always interested in the increasing the number of resources available here to the readers. I have not researched the site as of yet, but I will soon. The problem that I have found with some of them is they are not up to date on the the changes of existing stations and the inclusion of new stations. It has been over six months since the debut of our low power digital FOX network channel K36ID, and antenna web has not included it yet.
So, once again, I thank you for your post.

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