US broadcasters are mandated to shut down analog TV broadcasts by February 17, 2009. If you have one or more analog-only TVs that do not have cable or satellite service connected to them, you will need to take action to continue to receive any local over-the-air broadcast channels after February 17, 2009.

Consumers should know that they have a few options that will allow them to continue to receive local over the air broadcast channels after the transition takes place. Your options are listed below:

Option 1: Buy a box that converts digital signals to analog signals that your analog set can display.
Estimated Cost: $40-$70 if you buy a basic converter box, $10-$30 if you use the NTIA coupon worth $40

Option 2: Buy a new television set with a built in ATSC digital tuner.
Estimated Cost: $100 and up. (High Definition is not required)

Option 3: Subscribe to cable or satellite video service. (if available)
Estimated Cost: At least $8-$20/month ($96-$240/year) plus possible equipment rental fees.

While it is not required by the transition, some consumers may choose to take this opportunity to upgrade to a digital television. If this is the choice that you have made, here are a few things you should know. First, consumers should be aware that they can purchase a new television set with a built in digital or Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) tuner, which start at $100. All TVs with a digital tuner are able to receive digital signals being broadcast by television stations, so you can continue to receive your free local over the air programming after February 17, 2009.

Second, you have the option of buying a television with High-Definition (HD) capabilities. Simply buying a digital television with an ATSC tuner does not mean that you will be able to view programming that is being broadcast in an HD format. It also does not mean that you have to buy an HD television to receive programs being broadcast in a digital format. They are in fact two different types of TVs. Though HDTV is becoming increasingly popular, consumers should be aware that they do not have to purchase an HDTV in order to receive your local over the air programming after February 17, 2009 in a digital format, a TV equipped simply with an ATSC tuner will work. Please be sure to ask your sales associate for a television equipped only with this tuner unless it is your intention to purchase a television with HD capability. If you subscribe to a cable or satellite service that you may be required to subscribe to your pay TV service providers HD Programming package or tier before being able to view your cable or satellite channels in an all HDTV format. Please consult with your cable or satellite provider before purchasing an HDTV to be sure that it will suit your needs.

Your third option is to purchase a television that is not only equipped with an ATSC tuner which allows you to view your local over the air broadcast channels in a digital format, but is also equipped with what is known as a Quadrature Amplitude Modulation or QAM tuner. The QAM tuner will allow those consumers who subscribe to a cable service to view local over the air broadcasts as well as any unencrypted cable television programming without the need to rent a set top box from your cable operator. Results with the QAM tuner vary with select cable packaging. Please consult your cable operator before purchasing a television with a QAM tuner to be sure it will suit your needs.

Finally, consumers choosing to purchase a new digital television may want to dispose of their old analog TVs rather than connect them to a digital converter box. In order to help ensure the proper disposal of these TVs and for your convenience, the Department has assembled a list of electronic recycling programs and facilities operating within Massachusetts. Simply click here xls format of elec_recycling_locs.xls
to locate the facility or program available in your city or town. Please be aware that some locations may charge a fee to pick-up your television.

If you have immediate questions, please email or call the Consumer Division Hotline at the Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Cable at consumer.complaints@state.ma.us or 1-800-392-6066. More information will be provided on our website at www.mass.gov/dtc as details become available.