Friday, April 18, 2008

DTV coupons from FCC

Remember the FCC? Yeah the same agency that ran the auction which had the outcome of killing the Airfone air-to-ground internet project. Well they do much more than auctions. One program they have going is giving away coupons to US families.

Have you heard about DTV? Well I know you will know about it by this time next year because by then all the TV being sent over the airwaves will be digital (DTV).

Now some of us may have new DTV ready TV's but I don't. In fact this is somewhat confusing because a HDTV might NOT have a DTV tuner. If you bought the TV
after May 25, 2007 then you should be good because the FCC required all TV sets after that date to be equipped with this type of tuner. Also, if you have satellite or cable service then you don't need to worry - but I recommend you get one anyway - see reasoning below.

The reason for the coupon is to help consumers make the transition to digital TV. Each household can get two coupons usable for the purchase of two converters (total value $80).

I just received my coupons this week and today I bought one converter. The coupons come in a "credit card" format (magnetic stripe, hologram logo, raised letters and even an expiration date).

So I went to a local Radio Shack and bought a Digital Stream unit (over $60 with tax but the coupon brings it down to a $20+ purchase). There are some units on the internet for under $50 but you need to consider shipping. Also, it wasn't clear that all the online shops handled the coupon. Had I gone the online route then this post would have needed to wait until the delivery. Maybe with the other coupon I'll try the online shops.

I hooked the unit up to a small set in the bedroom. The setup just uses plain rabbit ears (I guess there might be some younger readers who never heard of rabbit ears - go ask someone over 50).

The result - good - I probably need a newer rabbit. The setup was very easy. The unit has a good built-in menu. The features add new life to the old TV. The Chicago PBS station 11 gave me four channels, that all came in good. The unit's remote has a button that displays the signal strength. A signal even less than excellent shows a great picture.

Why you should get the coupon and a converter box:
  1. The government is giving you $80 - come on help the economy already!
  2. Are all your TV's DTV ready? Do you watch an older one in the garage or kitchen?
  3. There are digital channels being broadcast now that not available on cable.
  4. Keep the option of dropping cable someday open.
  5. The DTV broadcast has an on-screen program guide built-in. Gives new life to an old TV set.
  6. You probably can use rabbit ears - great exercise adjusting the ears.
  7. You could use this one for recording shows even if you have cable.

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