The Projo’s Technical Difficulties with Digital TV

An unsigned editorial in Saturday’s Projo had this to say about the coming transition to digitial television…

The government is taking away the analog spectrum to boost wireless services (which are becoming ever more important) and for public-safety needs. That’s why the Feds (i.e., taxpayers) are even offering to help pay for those converter boxes.
So those rooftop antennae that were such important images in so many Christmas cards and magazine illustrations (will magazines disappear too?) will leave the scene, increasingly dominated by cell-phone towers.
…but I don’t think that’s correct.
Digital TV signals are broadcast over the airwaves on standard UHF frequencies, so cable or satellite TV is not required for receiving digital or high-definition broadcasts. All that’s needed is a) a digital converter and b) a good UHF antenna for acquiring signals to convert. (Channels that were originally VHF; 6, 10, and 12 in the Rhode Island market, have each been assigned some portion of the UHF spectrum, which the converters are programmed to find whenever the “old” VHF channel numbers are selected).
In anticipation of the change-over to digital, most televisions being manufactured now have converters built directly into them. External converters will only be required for older sets. WJAR-TV (NBC 10) has more detail available here; WPRI-TV‘s (CBS 12) digital information is available here.
Thus, contrary to the Projo editorial, UHF antennas will be more important than ever for receiving over-the-air broadcasts after the conversion to digital.

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Will
13 years ago

You are correct, of course. Unless one is a cable or satellite subscriber, the only way that one will be able to get over the air digital television, will be with an antenna, unless you already have a really good antenna built in to your TV. Since most newer models are already digital-ready, I don’t think it’s going to be as big a deal as people are assuming.
If anything, proper disposal of old televisions (i.e. the black and white one with a cathode ray tube hiding in your basement) will probably be a bigger problem, since they contain a lot of materials you probably wouldn’t want to eat or drink. Once prices for digital ones go down even further, I’d expect even more people to switch to digital voluntarily.

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