Iowa Public Television

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Digital Converter Box Information

In February of 2009, all television stations will cease broadcasting their analog television service and rely exclusively on their digital television (DTV) services. What this means to viewers will vary depending on how they receive their television service. Viewers that subscribe to either cable or satellite services will not see a loss of service as both cable and satellite providers have already stated that they will substitute a station’s primary DTV service for the station’s analog channel on the cable or satellite system. However, viewers that rely on over-the-air reception via a conventional antenna will have to take some proactive steps to ensure that they will receive service after the end of analog television.

In order to ensure that no one is disenfranchised by the federally mandated DTV conversion, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has commission the manufacture of set-top converter boxes that will receive an over-the-air DTV signal and convert them to analog signals for display on existing analog television. As part of the project, the NTIA is also administering a coupon program that will allow individual homes to receive up to two $40.00 coupons for the purchase of these converter boxes.

The coupons are only available to private residences and although each residence can receive two, each coupon must be used independently toward the purchase of only approved converter boxes. In short, you cannot combine them for $80.00 off a single box and you can only use them toward the purchase of the approved converter boxes. For more information and to sign up for coupons, visit www.dtv2009.gov or call 1-888-DTV-2009.

81 comments:

Anonymous said...

What can we do about our small battery-operated hand-held tv's we take to football games and other outdoor sites? Are we just out of luck with these?

Bill Hayes said...

Well, that is a great question. While at the CES I saw at least 7 different versions of the converter boxes. All of them were running off AC power and none of them mentioned a battery operated option. My guess here is that battery powered versions were not considered. I'll check more and let you know.

Anonymous said...

You have to toss it in the garbage and buy new. Isn't DTV grand?

A little over a year and no info about where to buy converter box for the low price that was lied about. Goto the government's own site https://www.dtv2009.gov/VendorSearch.aspx The coupon program is nothing more then a joke. You can get 3 but they are only good for 90 days and you can't get a replacement if it expires or gets lost.

Jennifer Konfrst said...

A couple things to point out - the 90 day expiration date is 90 days from when the coupons are sent, not when you apply. The coupons will not be sent until boxes are available in stores.

Another is that there is a Web site, www.mygreenelectronics.com, which you can visit to learn about how to recycle old electronic equipment, including television sets.

petersjo said...

We get service via our antenna, no cable or dish service. If we buy a new digital television, does it require connecting to an antenna? If so, would it use the same antenna we're using now or require a different type of antenna?

Jennifer Konfrst said...

Your digital television set will accept the same antenna that you are now using if it is capable of receiving channels in both the VHF (2-13) and UHF (14-60) frequencies. The signal will be as good if not better than the one you receive now.

Bruce said...

I see the converter box as a good alternitive for getting a digital signal, and more chanels. Many chanels are brodcasting a 5.1 audio. Will the converter box be abel to decode this version of audio?

Jennifer Konfrst said...

Hi Bruce. Since the box is meant to convert digital signals to analog that your existing set understands, I would expect that what will be sent to your set will just be the existing stereo signal since analog sets now cannot process 5.1 audio

Anonymous said...

What about the people that live 80 miles from the tower? How will we be able to receive free over the air tv broadcast? According to antennaweb.org I can only receive one digital tv station even if I had a 100ft tower at my house. I can currently receive all of the major broadcast stations on analog signals. Looks like I will be forced to start paying for what I currently receive free.

Anonymous said...

I have a question about this digital switch. For Christmas my parents got me a new TV that is capable of receiving digital channels. I found that the digital channels come in amazing!!!....though they seem to cut out more often than I like (I hope this is a glitch that will be worked out by the time of the switch) also...when I first hooked my TV up...I was able to get our local news channel (KWWL) on Digital (both the KWWL Digital and the KWWL Weather Plus)...for the past few weeks when I try to access KWWL Digital it says "Digital Channel is Encrypted" What does this mean?? I am so confused with all of this!!

bunyhgr203 said...

Just how "expensive" are these converter boxes going to be? A large part of the american public lives below the poverty level, are we going to be cut out of the viewing public by the expense of this conversion? If so, how will we be informed of weather conditions and emergencies?

Bill Hayes said...

Living 80 miles from the tower doesn't necessarily mean you won't get DTV service, especially if you are currently getting analog service from the same tower. The antennaweb.org site is pretty conservative in regards to how it calculates signals to determine what antenna a viewer would need. They have to be because they are advising people on what they need to purchase to insure reception and they want to be positive that their recommendations are valid and reliable. We routinely test reception using a mast that extends approximately 30 feet into the air and pick up solid reception at 90 and 100 miles from the tower. The 30 foot height is mandated by the FCC for signal measurements and is essentially the height that an outdoor antenna installed on the roof of a single story home would be. If you are already using an antenna and receiving analog service, it is quite likely that you'll receive digital services as well.

Bill Hayes said...

Hi bunyhgr203,
If you read my posts from CES you'll see that I found a number of converters that were in the $50 to $60 range and there was one that was $39.95 which means that with a $40.00 coupon, it is free.

Bill Hayes said...

I'd like to address the comments and questions regarding the Christmas present and KWWL but in order to do this, I'd need some more information.

First, is the the new TV hooked up to an antenna or a cable service? The reason I ask is that most DTV sets with digital receivers are capable of either ATSC (over the air) digital reception or open-QAM (cable) digital reception and most cable systems I have tested put the local broadcasters on their open-QAM service. The sudden appearence of the message that the signal is encrypted makes me wonder if the cable has moved the wervice off of open-QAM.

If you are watching over-the-air, the encrypted message may actually be the set's way of telling you that the received signal is too noisy or weak to be properly decoded. Your comment about the service cutting out would point weak signal as a potential problem. Do all services cut out or just KWWL? If all of the services are cutting out it is probably something to do with your antenna or the line from the antenna to the receiver. Things to look for are making sure the antenna is in good shape and pointed in the right direction. Loose or corroded connections at the antenna or cracks in the antenna line can also cause problems.

I'll be happy to answer any other questions and try and help solve the problem but I'll need more specifics.

Anonymous said...

What is IPTV's plan for programming after Analog Sunset. I really enjoy the current 3 program streams (one analog, two digital). Is one of them going to go away or are all three moving to the DTV channel?

Anonymous said...

Right now digital cable is a higher (and the most expensive) tier of cable. I only get (and only want) the very most basic cable. Are we all going to be forced to pay more for cable?

Jennifer Konfrst said...

Cable operations will supply a down-converted version of stations' primary digital service. Therefore, after the conversion, you will still receive our primary service in a down-converted form through the cable you receive now. However, you will not receive any other services, such as multicast channels. You can receive those free over-the-air, however, with a converter box.

Anonymous said...

I have a 13-inch color portable that I watch in my sunroom (uses a rabbit ear antenna). Will the converter box work with this type of TV and if not, what is the minimum PORTABLE size that will be compatible with the converter box? I don't need a 30-inch plasma in every room!!!

Bill Hayes said...

Your 13" set will still work with a digital converter box. The way the boxes work is that you hook the antenna up to the box and it becomes the television tuner. There are two ways to get the signal from the converter box to the television. There is television output on channel 3 or 4, (you select), and you connect the radio frequency (RF) output to the antenna input on the portable television. You then tune the portable television to either channel 3 or 4 and the converted programming shows up on the television.
The converter box also has a video and stereo audio connections that can be used to feed the video and audio inputs on the television if it has them. In that case, on the old television you switch from antenna to video (some sets do this automatically) and the converted programming shows up on the television.
Now in regards to the rabbit ears, they should still work but it depends on your location and the type of rabbit ears you're using. If you notice while currently watching our analog service that the picture breaks up or gets noisy if someone walks near the TV, that problem will also happen with the digital service. The difference will be that rather than getting noisy or breaking up, the picture may freeze or the screen may go blank. Digital is different and it behaves a little differently than analog. I hope this helps. Bill

timh said...

cool, the online application for coupons at dtv2009.gov doesn't work at all, i gave up after 4 tries attempting to submit the application, they left no feedback tab so the only way to contact them is over the telephone (probably automated), do you think radio broadcasting will be next in line for this kind of conversion?

Bill Hayes said...

Hi timh,
I am surprised that you had problems with the on-line application. I did mine on-line and had no problems. Did you try calling the toll free number and applying that way?

Regarding radio, that transition is already happening and you may had already heard about HD radio. The technology in radio is called IBOC which stand for "In Band On Channel". Radio stations are installing new IBOC transmitters that allow them to continue to broadcast on the same frequency to existing radio receivers while adding new digital services on the same frequency that only new IBOC receivers can get. The digital radio transition doesn't require the listeners to purchase anything to continue to receive analog service.

Jennifer Konfrst said...

Dan Miller, IPTV's General Manager and Executive Director, said the following regarding the programming question posted by anonymous.

The short answer is that we’re still working all this out. Our hope is to broadcast at least two SD services in addition to our HD offerings; one SD would be for children’s programming, another for lifelong learning and/or current affairs. We won’t be able to determine what exactly we’ll be offering until we learn what PBS will offer as its HD service, and until we know answers to some funding questions. We should know both in lat Spring.

Thank you for writing.

Anonymous said...

I am disappointed by all of the positive hype surrounding digital TV. In particular, the "digital is better" mantra. There are many aspects of conversion to digital that I have not seen discussed by the industry.

(1) Many people will buy converter boxes, but there will be many who throw away old TVs and buy new ones. What are the environmental costs associated with this change in regard to disposal of old electronics and the manufacture of new ones?

(2) The digital signal will (presumably) require computer processing to decode the compressed signal. What is the impact of this processing demand on the operational (i.e. electricity) costs for a TV?

(3) I live in the Des Moines area, but I often have a weak signal from channel 5. I can tolerate the static on my trusty analog TV, but it appears that a weak digital signal will not be shown at all.

(4) Digital signals are often lossy-compressed, which results in 'ghosting' outlines of letters on the image and also rectangular blocking artifacts, particularly on gradients like a blue sky. How are these aspects "better" than analog.sk

Be more honest about the pros and cons, and don't just call digital TV better.

tin man said...

2 questions - 1. does the converter box have a remote to change channels? 2. Will I be able to select both 4.1 and 4.2 channels and how?

Jennifer Konfrst said...

Yes, the converter box does come with a remote control. There is a button on the remote marked "./-" that allows you to manually punch in 11.1 or 12.2, etc.

Anonymous said...

I live in the country and receive TV signals using rabbit ears. We are about 50 miles north of Fort Dodge and the only channel we pull in is IPTV from Fort Dodge. I recently purchased a DVD recorder and player. When I receive TV signals through the DVD recorder, they are much clearer than when I receive the signal through either the VCR or directly from the antenna. Am I already receiving Digital Programming, and do I need a converter box?

Anonymous said...

Am answer to the question whether you would get surround sound with the converter box:
The NTIA rules allow that a eligible box has an output to feed the audio signal separately to a surround receiver, but I have not seen any converter box that had that implemented.

S-Video out is also allowed, but the $50 boxes that I have seen did not have that either.

Anonymous said...

When I receive TV signals through the DVD recorder, they are much clearer than when I receive the signal through either the VCR or directly from the antenna. Am I already receiving Digital Programming, and do I need a converter box?

You will have to look at the manual or on the front of the Recorder to see if it says it has a digital tuner if it doesn't specify say it means it doesn't.

Anonymous said...

I apologize for not following up on sooner...I see that Bill Hayes responded to my concern with my new TV and not able to get KWWL-DT.
"I'd like to address the comments and questions regarding the Christmas present and KWWL but in order to do this, I'd need some more information. I pasted his response below. I am hooked up to an antenna (rabbit ears). Originally I was able to get KWWL-DT and then after about a week I started getting the message that the digital channel is encrypted. It is not due to a weak signal...when that happens it says digital signal is too low. Also, my sister just got a new TV a couple of weeks ago and they are able to get KWWL-DT with no problems. I have tried to contact KWWL but they only responded to me once...asking if I was hooked up to an antenna. I have responded to them twice and they still will not email me back with any suggestions. I am very frustrated with this. If you have any ideas as to how to resolve this, I would be very grateful! (below if the response you gave me with my first post)

First, is the the new TV hooked up to an antenna or a cable service? The reason I ask is that most DTV sets with digital receivers are capable of either ATSC (over the air) digital reception or open-QAM (cable) digital reception and most cable systems I have tested put the local broadcasters on their open-QAM service. The sudden appearence of the message that the signal is encrypted makes me wonder if the cable has moved the wervice off of open-QAM.
If you are watching over-the-air, the encrypted message may actually be the set's way of telling you that the received signal is too noisy or weak to be properly decoded. Your comment about the service cutting out would point weak signal as a potential problem. Do all services cut out or just KWWL? If all of the services are cutting out it is probably something to do with your antenna or the line from the antenna to the receiver. Things to look for are making sure the antenna is in good shape and pointed in the right direction. Loose or corroded connections at the antenna or cracks in the antenna line can also cause problems.
I'll be happy to answer any other questions and try and help solve the problem but I'll need more specifics."

Anonymous said...

I apologize for not following up on sooner...I see that Bill Hayes responded to my concern with my new TV and not able to get KWWL-DT.
I posted his response below. I am hooked up to an antenna (rabbit ears). Originally I was able to get KWWL-DT and then after about a week I started getting the message that the digital channel is encrypted. It is not due to a weak signal...when that happens it says digital signal is too low. Also, my sister just got a new TV a couple of weeks ago and they are able to get KWWL-DT with no problems. I have tried to contact KWWL but they only responded to me once...asking if I was hooked up to an antenna. I have responded to them twice and they still will not email me back with any suggestions. I am very frustrated with this. If you have any ideas as to how to resolve this, I would be very grateful! (below if the response you gave me with my first post)

"I'd like to address the comments and questions regarding the Christmas present and KWWL but in order to do this, I'd need some more information. First, is the the new TV hooked up to an antenna or a cable service? The reason I ask is that most DTV sets with digital receivers are capable of either ATSC (over the air) digital reception or open-QAM (cable) digital reception and most cable systems I have tested put the local broadcasters on their open-QAM service. The sudden appearence of the message that the signal is encrypted makes me wonder if the cable has moved the wervice off of open-QAM.
If you are watching over-the-air, the encrypted message may actually be the set's way of telling you that the received signal is too noisy or weak to be properly decoded. Your comment about the service cutting out would point weak signal as a potential problem. Do all services cut out or just KWWL? If all of the services are cutting out it is probably something to do with your antenna or the line from the antenna to the receiver. Things to look for are making sure the antenna is in good shape and pointed in the right direction. Loose or corroded connections at the antenna or cracks in the antenna line can also cause problems.
I'll be happy to answer any other questions and try and help solve the problem but I'll need more specifics."

Bill Hayes said...

Since you are receiving an off air signal, the first thing I would suggest trying is to rescan for the digital channels. It may be possible that KWWL made a change to the data they send out that has confused your television set and by rescanning that may straighten it out. I am going to send a note to the chief engineer at KWWL with a link to this blog, he may want to respond to you directly.

Anonymous said...

Bill...I have rescanned the channels several different times and I continue with the same problem. Thank you for forwarding this problem to KWWL...I have tried emailing them a couple of times with no success. My email is justbreathe8278@yahoo.com

Cheryl's Office said...

Thanks for helping clear up the product blog confusion regarding the transition to Digital TV. I have more than 6 analog TVs. It looks like I will have to purchase 6 converter boxes... otherwise my community landfill will receive a truck load of old TVs.

Anonymous said...

Still no sign of coupons in the mail and it is March 25. Does anyone know when they will be coming out?

Jennifer Konfrst said...

With regard to televisions you no longer want, be sure to visit www.mygreenelectronics.com to learn about other disposal options.

Jennifer Konfrst said...

The coupons are not mailed until they are available for purchase in your area. Below is the schedule listed at https://www.dtv2009.gov/RecentUpdates.aspx
for estimated shipping dates for the coupons:

The NTIA began distributing coupons on February 17, 2008.

Coupons are being sent on a staggered basis – not all at once. Because of the high demand for coupons at the beginning of the program, it may take some time for you to receive your coupon. The table below shows the scheduled mail date based on the date your request was received and processed:

(App. date - mail date)
January 1, 2008 - 2/18 – 2/29/2008
January 2, 2008 - 3/3 – 3/14/2008
January 3-6, 2008 - 3/17-3/21 January 7–13, 2008 - 3/24-3/28 January 14–30, 2008 - 3/31–4/4
January 31–Feb 16, 2008 - 4/7-4/11 February 17–24, 2008 - 4/14-18
Feb 25-Mar 10, 2008 - 4/21-4/25
March 11-21, 2008 - 4/28 - 5/2

*Note that coupons do not expire until 90 days after they have been mailed. Note also that coupons are being mailed via Standard mail (not First-class mail), with delivery expected around 2-9 days from the mail date.

If you would like to check the status of your specific application visit the link above.

Anonymous said...

I see a lot of the same questions over and over and haven't seen a decent answer yet. How do I get real answers to my questions. I need to know if I want to bother with getting a converter box or if I'm just going to give up TV watching next year.

See Feb 8th's 4 part question. I don't see that anyone has answered questions 3 and 4 yet.

Also, get real, do you really think the majority of people who buy a new digital TV will bother recycle the old set?

Anonymous said...

In response to the April 9 post that refers to the Feb 8 post, I can at least comment on item #3. I live on the west edge of Mount Pleasant with an all-channel antenna up 25 feet with a preamp at the antenna. I bought a converter and soon realized that there are many analog stations in which I can rarely get their digital counterpart. This problem doesn't pertain to IPTV's KIIN from their West Branch tower, from which I get reliable analog and digital. But for commercial stations from the Quad Cities, Cedar Rapids, and Quincy, IL it is a different story. Right now all digital transmissions are on UHF, where signals don't propagate as far and most stations are running lower power than what a normal UHF analog station would. Coax and splitters in a home's antenna system will have more loss on those higher frequencies and some antennas may not have as much gain at the upper UHF end of the RF spectrum. This all adds up to marginal digital reception from what we are used to on analog. When I can get a good solid digital signal, the picture quality is far superior plus there is more programming choices such as what is offered on IPTV, but if you can't reliably capture that digital signal then you are out of luck.

One good thing is that many broadcasters will go back to VHF with digital after Feb 17, 2009 which should help as VHF signals travel farther. Not all stations will choose or be able to switch back to VHF, especially those currently on channels 2-6. And those like KDSM-17, always on UHF, will stay on UHF.

Bottom line for us viewers on the fringe areas is to see what happens after 2/17/09 and if the changes broadcasters make at that time don't completely help, then it looks like it will be up to us viewers to get higher gain antennas, taller towers, low-loss coax, etc.

Anonymous said...

Question-

I would like to know if these converter boxes are compatable with any brand or size tv? If not, what info do I need to take with me to purchase the box that's right for my tv.
Penny

Anonymous said...

An FYI Coupons aren't being mailed out stagged as the dtv2009 site says. I ordered both coupons going by what they said. Know I'm stuck having to use them now. I was planning on getting one box now and the other coupon coming later and using it get get a next gerneration box.

3 You will have to do like I do and go from the rabbit ears to needing an roof top antenna or in my case 2 since I receive mine from the south and the west.

4 It's one of those things it could look better loikr DVDs some moview look better on VHS.



Will over the air digital have rain fade like satellite has?

Barry said...

Regarding KWWL
They have petitioned the FCC to have their DTV signal on Ch7, not on Ch55 where they are currently providing DTV service.

This will require consumers in the CR-Wat area to have both VHF and UHF antennas which is completely unacceptable.

http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/cgi-bin/ws.exe/prod/cdbs/forms/prod/cdbsmenu.hts?context=25&appn=101233464&formid=387&fac_num=593

Consider commenting to the FCC at mbinfo@fcc.gov
Reference BPCDT-20080314ADY

Anonymous said...

I purchased a converter box and installed it on a TV set that I have in New Hampshire. It searched for all stations and found none. I do not have an outside antenna and a have a very analogy weak signal. Does this mean I need an outside antenna?

Anonymous said...

To the New Hamshire person that gets no DTV signal with the indoor antenna - yes, a good all-channel outside antenna will help. With my outside antenna, I'm finding in some cases I still have trouble with some digital stations in which I can get a decent analog signal. Yet in other cases I'm finding it easier to get a solid DTV signal compared to analog. It all depends how much power the digital transmitter is running and what RF channel they are on. The higher UHF channels, like up in the 50s, don't propagate as well.

Dixie said...

I really have enjoyed everybody's opinion. I had no problem getting the coupons and at Wal-Mart, the box was 49.85 so I only had to pay 9.85, but my problem is that I cannot get a picture on my VCR so I can tape my stories. If I take the antenna off the back of the box and put it on my VCR, I can tape. I have it hooked up properly and I love getting the digital stations, but it is a pain every night to have to remove the antenna and put on the vcr.

Anonymous said...

Dear Jennifer Konfrst :
I only have limited basic cable which allows me to see all local channels and a few other local cable channels. When february 2009 comes, what will happen to customers like me ? Will I need a converter box ?
Linda

okie said...

I purchased the converter box, hooked it up but I do not have an outside antenna. I live near a big city but I cannot get any signal or get a weak signal. I cannot afford cable or dish network. How will I be able to get the local TV stations?

okie said...

How can I get a signal with the new Converter box if I do not have an outside antenna? I only have the inside Rabbit Ears.

Anonymous said...

Those viewers that get little or no DTV signals with an indoor antenna, you will probably need to put up some type of outdoor antenna. Make sure the antenna is an all-channel antenna that is meant for VHF/UHF reception. Even though all DTV stations are currently on UHF channels, some will be going back to their old VHF channels next February.

To the viewer Dixie - I probably have the same box you have. Since it will not pass the analog signal, I use a splitter that sends the signal from the antenna to both the converter box and the VCR/TV and then connect the converter box to the TV through the video input rather than the RF (ch 3 or 4) input. That way I don't have to reconnect the coax and I can easily switch to either the digital converter or the VCR/TV. I can't tape off of digital with this setup, but it eliminates some of the awkardness of moving cables.

Rich said...

Hi: I used our 2 coupons at Radio Shack. Hooked one up to the main TV and all I get is "weak signal". Went upstairs unhooked my RCA Tape/DVD recorder with Digital Tuner (which works fine converting HD to analog) and the "box" still says weak signal. We are approximately 10 - 25 miles from transmitters (depending on which channel). The peak of our house is not obstructed by anything and is about 30' in the air. I have an older but huge antenna up there on a rotor and probably an additional 7' (total of 35' - 40' in the air with rotor).If my RCA unit with digital tuner can do it why can't the wonderful converter box? Sounds like another governmental boondoggle to me to appease somebody with a lot of money. Rich

Anonymous said...

Question? where are the Echostar converter boxes going to available from ? I can only find one place that is taking preorders for them and they are charging 48.99 plus 9.95 shipping for a box that Echostar says they are going to sell for 38.95. That means that they would be free if you get them using the coupons. They are not going to be available until the week of 6/16. They will be sold under the name DTVPAL Model TR 40 I'm told.

Anonymous said...

To Rich: Sounds like your converter box may be bad. Since your RCA recorder with a digital tuner seems to be receiving DTV, then your antenna system must be OK. Perhaps the "box" has lower sensitivity,in which a subpar antenna/coax could affect reception with a weaker receiver while being fine with a better receiver. Being so close to the transmitter sites, I would think the antenna would have to be pretty bad to have reception problems. If you try another converter box with the same results, you should check the antenna system. The antenna needs to be cut for UHF frequencies as that is the frequency band where virtually all DTV currently transmits. Some antennas tend to "roll off" at the very high end of the UHF band so viewers may have trouble with DTV stations on those upper UHF channels (like 50 on up).

Anonymous said...

Okay, after reading all the comments I still don't understand one simple thing - if we have new tv sets, will we need the converter boxes? Even the electronics store advisor couldn't tell me that! We are hooked up to an outside antenna for two tv's and new digital rabbit ears for a small set in the kitchen.We don't wish to have cable or dish.

Also, our antenna is in the attic. I receive digital stations on our living room lcd t.v. that cut out frequently or don't catch the signal at all. We were told to put our antenna on the roof-even though it worked fine at first. But, the new set in the kitchen has newly purchased rabbit ears and I rarely have trouble receiving a signal! What's up with that?

Bill Hayes said...

If you have purchased a new television in the last few months, by law it must have a digital television tuner in it. If you are not sure, a quick way to find out (assuming you are using an antenna) is to do a scan for channels. If the television comes up with channel like 11-1, 11-2, 11-3, those are digital sub channels and only a digital tuner will show them. You can also check the specification for the television. As an example, if you look at the specification for a Samsung LN22A330 LCD TV, there is a row that says "Tuners" and specifies "built-in digital tuner (ATSC / clear QAM)." ATSC is the digital television standard for broadcast and this indicates that this set has the required tuner and therefore would not need a converter box.

By the way, "clear QAM" indicates that this set, if connected to a cable system will show digital signals that are not encrypted by the cable company. I know that in the Des Moines area, Mediacom carries IPTV's high definition digital service in the clear QAM area and therefore this set would also find it.

Regarding the reception issues, an attic antenna may or may not work depending on a number of factors. How far are you from the television station transmitters? What is the roof and building made out of? Typically mounting an antenna in the attic will result in only about half of the signal power getting through the roof to the antenna and if you are far enough from the transmitters, this may be the reason the signal isn't reliable. If it was good and isn't now, I would also suspect that there are some tall trees nearby that are now leafing up nicely. All of those leaves, while beautiful could also be blocking more of the signal. The indoor antenna is probably working better because the signal is getting in through the windows which block less of the signal than the roof and they are below the branch level of any trees.

Now this is all theoretical because I don't actually know the location and conditions around your home but it is a place to start.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone bought one of the converter boxes with analog passthru? I was checking if there is a particular brand that works better than others. I need the passthru feature because we have Dish Network in addition to our rooftop antenna.

DTV Converter Man said...

Wow, I did not think about all those little hand held televisions that people have. Are those really done for?

Bill Hayes said...

Hi DTV Converter Man. I don't think a lot of thought was given to portable television when the converter box program was planned. I haven't seen a battery powered converter box yet. Also most of the portable television I have seen have a permanently mounted antenna on the set with no external RF input so even if a battery powered converter box is manufactured, not many of the battery powered televisions will have the required input.

Bill

Bill Hayes said...

To the anonymous post regarding the converter box with analog pass through and Dish network. I'd like to understand a little better how you have your antenna and Dish service hooked up. As I understand it, you have a set top box from Dish that has an satellite antenna input that is connected to the small dish antenna and another antenna input that is connected to the over the air television antenna and using the remote for the Dish set top box you select between satellite and antenna service. You should be able to place the DTV converter box in between the roof top antenna and the antenna input to the Dish set top box. The need for pass through would then go away since the output of the Dish set top box is not going through the DTV converter.

Bill

Bill Hayes said...

To the anonymous reply to Rich, I agree with most of what you have said. However, it is not valid to assume that the DTV antenna should be cut for UHF reception since many stations will be returning to their VHF channels for DTV operation once the analog shutoff has occurred. It varies based on the market and the decision that each station has made.

Bill

Anonymous said...

How do I figure out which converter box(es) are right for me?

Anonymous said...

I live in Ames and was unable to find any digital converter boxes available in the Kmart and Walmart stores in Carroll or Ames today. I also could not find any boxes in stock in the Target store in Ames. I did find boxes in the Best Buy store in Ames, but they were $10 higher in price. I searched target.com, and walmart.com and could not find any converter boxes in stock in stores within 100 miles of Ames. Is there a reason for this? Will I be forced to purchase the higher priced box on offer at Best Buy (I have the $40 coupon)?

Bill Hayes said...

I just posted an update to this question. Please read my "Where Did All the Converter Boxes Go?" posting.

Bill

Anonymous said...

We get our service over antenna, not cable or satellite, and do a lot of VHS recording on our 4 recorders. As I understand it, we need a converter box for each of our 2 TVs, plus one each for the 4 VHS recorders.

I have read that :

1. Some converter boxes will need to be programmed for shows to be recorded, as well as programming the VHS recorder;

2. Some converter boxes will not change channels to allow recording of several different timed recordings on a VHS recorder;

3. Some converter boxes do not have remotes with keys to a specific box, so that if you have more than one you have to cover the remote signal receiver for the other boxes.

How can I tell which converter boxes to buy to avoid these problems? I would like to be able to continue to record programs as I have in the past, without having to subscribe to expensive services or buy lots of expensive equipment. Thanks for your help.

Bill Hayes said...

You are correct that you would need a converter box for each of your two televisions as well as four for the four VCR's.

In response to your what you have read, I can tell you what I know based on the converter boxes I have experiemented with but I have not tested all of the models available.

1. All of the converter boxes I have tested would need to be preset for the channel you want to record from and left on. Since they are replacing the tuner in the VCR and are completely independent, the microprocessor in the VCR has no control over the converter.

2. I have not seen any converter boxes that can be programmed to change channels. They may exist but I haven't found one yet.

3. I only have one each of the models that I have tested but I would expect that if you have four of the same model clustered together the remote control for any one of them would control all of them.

Short of buying new VCR's with digital tuners, the only thing I can think of would be to buy six different models of converter boxes which would each have their own unique remote controls but you're still going to have the problem of not being able to do multiple timed recordings on different channels.

Bill

Anonymous said...

I live in Solon in a brick apartment building with windows only facing to the south. I can get KGAN and the CW in just fine, but KCRG and KFXA cut in and out and and I cannot not get KWWL in at all. I am using a RCA - Amplified Indoor Off-Air HDTV Antenna. Any suggestions as how to get the stations from cutting in and out and KWWL to come in? I can't mount a outdoor atenna and refuse to pay the ripoff MediaCom.

Bill Hayes said...

Greetings Solon resident. You present an interesting case for reception. Solon is located over 100 miles south of the transmitter sites where KCRG and KWWL's digital and analog signals and KGAN's digital signal originate from. KFXA's transmitters are somewhat closer in that their analog transmitter is only about 20 miles north of Solon and the digital transmitter site is about 35 miles northwest. Given the distances and the fact that you are using an indoor antenna with only a southern facing window, I am surprised that you get any service from these stations, especially the KCRG, KWWL and KGAN. I would expect given that you do face the south, you would have a better chance of reception from the digital stations in the Davenport area as they are significantly closer to you and to the south east.

I suspect the reason you get the CW and I assume IPTV's station KIIN is that both of those stations transmitter sites are located about 15 miles southeast of you and your indoor antenna should work okay.

Regarding the indoor antenna, you mentioned that you cannot mount an outdoor antenna and although I don't know the specifics of the building you live in, if you have a private porch or balcony area there are federal regulations that prevent a landlord or local covenants from preventing you from installing an antenna to receive over the air service. A summary of those rules can be found at http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/consumerdish.html. You may have other extenuating factors that I am not aware of but if one of them is that you landlord says no, you may want to review these rules. Getting an antenna outdoors will improve the reliability of your received service.

I hope this helps.

Bill

Anonymous said...

While I am not in Iowa, this is the only site I have found where people are getting some answers to these converter boxes. I live in WI. I have had a converter box on 2 tv's in my home. there are a couple channels that come in fine with just the antenna but with the box they cut out a lot and there is another channel that I can get with the antenna and not the box, the station is right in town so it seems strange. Will the cutting out stop once stations move all to digital or will it continue?? at this point I would have rather stayed with the analog stations they came in better.
any help would be great. I got the zenith converter box
thanks, WI

Bill Hayes said...

I am more than happy to answer questions from people outside of Iowa. I have many friends in Wisconsin. Without some specifics regarding where you are, I cannot provide detailed information but I can give you some general things to consider and try.

There will be some changes after the analog shut off but I don't know how significant it will be in your area. The situation you are describing can have a number of causes. If you are using an indoor antenna and some of the stations you were getting were on VHF and their digital services are on UHF you could be dealing with the fact that VHF does better on getting to indoor antennas. If the stations are going back to their VHF channels the signal may become more reliable but indoor reception is always less reliable than indoor.

If you can tell me what stations you receive analog, I can tell you what their DTV channels are which will help with antenna selection and orientation. You can also go to www.antennaweb.org and enter your location and get the same information.

Bill

Stephen said...

I just installed a converter box to connect to my outside antenna. And now I am confused as to why I can only get IPTV by not using the converter. When I autoscan it doesn't pick up any channel 14. According to the antennaweb site I am only 2 miles from the transmitter which is 56 degrees from my location. I have turned the antenna that direction and done another autoscan and NOTHING?

I was getting WPT out of Lacrosse and now get it extremely well as well as Fox from Lacrosse and KTTC from Rochester.

I have manually looked for 14.1, 14.2 14.3 and found no signal to be the only response. Any ideas?

Bill Hayes said...

Greetings Stephen,

Since you are watching IPTV on channel 14 and are only a couple of miles from the transmitter, I assume that you live in the Decorah, IA area. The reason you are not finding any digital service from channel 14 is very simple, there isn't any at this time.

Let me explain. The federal mandate for digital television service and the shut down of analog service applies only to full power television transmitter stations. It does not apply to low power television services and television translators. IPTV's channel 14 operation is actually a translator and does not have a companion digital service. Nor will it stop operating as an analog service on February 17, 2009. That deadline is only for the full powered facilities.

However, IPTV will be converting all eight of our translators to digital operation as quickly as we can after the analog shut off in February. In order to accomplish this, we will be changing from channel 14 to channel 16 and increasing our coverage area. We expect to have the channel change accomplished in the next couple of months and will switch to digital operation in the late spring/early summer of 2009.

I hope this helps.

Bill

Jeff said...

I have Mediacom extended cable in Des Moines. My HDTV is able to get 13-1 and 8-1 but I cannot seem to get the iptv dtv channels 11-1. Should I be able to get this channel? Any quick fixes?

Robby said...

When using my converter box the sound and picture cuts in and out, mostly the sound. Changing the antenna configuration does nothing, is this to be expected? I live 10 miles from Cincinnati. I have a power antenna and it does not matter if it is powered on or off.

Bill Hayes said...

Hi Robby,

I assume you are using an indoor antenna with a preamplifier. One of the problems with indoor reception is that there are many things that can interfer with the signal. IPTV aired a program on digital reception that is available from our website. If you go to
http://www.iptv.org/video/browse.cfm/tag/dtv
you'll find the program at the top of the list. It will give you some pointers on things to do to improve reception.

Bill

Bill Hayes said...

It sounds like your digital television has an "open QAM" tuner. This allows you to receive the digital cable services that are sent by Mediacom in the clear, meaning that they don't require a special cable box. I have the same thing and I am able to get our service. You may want to rescan the television tuner. It may be that Mediacom has made a change that your tuner is not aware of and needs to rescan to find the channels.

Bill

Anonymous said...

My question is this: Can I record a program using a conventional VCR through my converter box? I can watch a VHS easily but can't seem to figure out how to record anything or is that not possible.

Bill Hayes said...

Yes you can record programming with a conventional VCR and a converter box. The most common hook up is to have the antenna feed into the converter box. Take the RF output of the converter box into the antenna input of the VCR and the RF output of the VCR into the antenna input of the TV. Tune the television to channel 3. To watch digital services, the VCR is turned off and all tuning is done on the converter box. To watch tapes turn the VCR on and push play. To record from the converter box, tune the converter to the channel you want to record and tune the VCR to channel 3 and it will record the output of the converter box.

Some limitations you need to understand is that you will not be able to watch something on a different channel while taping since the only tuner that is receiving an over the air signal is the converter box and it must be left on the channel you are recording. Also if you are planning a timed recording, when setting up the VCR you must tell it to record from channel 3 since that is the output channel of the converter box and you must pretune the converter box to the channel you want to record from. Also all converter boxes have an auto shutoff feature that is typically set at four hours. This was required to get their "Energy Star" complaince certification. You'll need to disable the auto shutoff or the box will shut down and all you'll record is static.

Bill

OneRobyngirl said...

In November 2008 we hooked up our dtv converter. It worked so well that we received 8 signals rather than the 3 we were getting with analog. Today? We cannot get any signal from any station. We moved our entire living room around to get it near a window to help with signals. No improvement. How can it be working for months, then just stop receivnig signals completely? What can we do about it?

Bill Hayes said...

Hi OneRobyngirl,

Have you done a rescan on your DTV converter box? On June 12, all full powered analog television stations shut down. A significant number of those stations moved their digital service from the UHF channel they had been operating on to their old channel. In order for you converter box to understand the change, you need to rescan to find all of the channels again.

Bill

Anonymous said...

Before the official transition a couple of days ago, we had good reception of all the channels. After the conversion, we reprogrammed our TV and it picked up all of the same channels again except 5.1 and 5.2, which we had before. I have tried to adjust the antenna but it has not helped. Should we try to move the tv or is this a problem possibly caused by the station broadcasting it. We live near Boone. Thanks.

Bill Hayes said...

Are you using an indoor antenna or an outdoor antenna? WOI has moved their digital service off of the UHF channel they were using (channel 59) on to VHF channel 5, their analog channel. If you are using an indoor antenna you probably will have more trouble with reliable reception.

Bill

Anonymous said...

can a dtv converter box be hooked
up to a combination tv set??

Bill Hayes said...

Yes, a digital converter box can be hooked to a combination set, but the tuners in the set are both analog so they share the converter box signal and therefore, you cannot watch one channel while recording another any more.

Bill