How to prepare for digital TV

HOUSTON For many people the switch to digital television will not be a big deal, but there are thousands in Houston unprepared for the future of TV.

If you only have an antenna -- you know, old-fashioned rabbit ears -- then February 17, 2009 is the date your old TV set will no longer pick up TV signals. Thousands of Houston homes do not have cable or satellite, so this date is extremely important and so far a lot of homeowners have yet to buy the needed converter box.

The owners of older TV sets who do not have cable or satellite and still use an antenna to watch TV need to buy a digital converter box before February 17, 2009. Even with the looming deadline, there is no stampede to get a digital converter box.

James Harlow needs a converter box for his guest room TV, but he's still not ready to buy.

"I am still looking. I do notice they used to be $70. Now it is down," he told us.

In fact, the price on the converter box is $50. If you add the $40 government coupon available for every household, the cost comes down to just ten bucks. But still Harlow is not buying.

"I suspect the price is going to drop the closer we get," Harlow said.

The coupon program ends March 31, 2009. If you have a coupon, it is important to use it quickly because they expire after 90 days. Manuel Cedillo's coupon would have been worthless by Friday.

Cedillo is not alone in needing a converter box. The federal government says in Houston, a quarter million households have requested the coupon, but about half of those homeowners still have not bought a converter box. The switch to digital TV signals will not affect those who have cable or satellite, but Houston has one of the largest populations of over the air TV viewers in the nation, so the switch could have a big impact in our area.

Despite a barrage of advertisements, many consumers still don't know if they need a converter box or not.

"I think many people still don't know exactly what the procedures are to get the coupons probably," Cedillo said.

Getting one of the coupons is very easy, all you have to do is get it from here.

But are the boxes hard to hook up?

No, just two cables and you are all set. The boxes come with cables if you don't have them.

Again, if you have satellite or cable, nothing will change for you after February 17th, but if you only use an antenna and have an older analog TV set, you must buy a digital converter box.

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