County urges residents to get converter box by June

KINGMAN - The original deadline for major television broadcast stations to switch from analog to digital signals has come and gone, but regardless of whether you have a satellite dish, digital cable or plain old rabbit ears, you still shouldn't have any problem getting a signal.

That's because analog television signals were given a stay of execution last week when Congress voted to pass the "DTV Delay Act," extending the deadline for mandated digital broadcasting from Feb. 17 to June 12.

The goal of the extension was to give unprepared households a chance to acquire a digital-to-analog converter box.

The Nielson Co. research firm has estimated that about 6.5 million analog households have yet to acquire one of the devices, which can cost up to $50.

But while the mandated date has been pushed back, the Federal Communications Commission has reported that more than 700 of the nation's 1,800 television stations still plan to cease analog broadcasts this week.

Fortunately, none of those stations include any of Arizona's major metropolitan markets, according to Yvonne Orr, the assistant to Mohave County's manager, Ron Walker.

"They've all decided to go in June," Orr said. "Last week they said they were going to go this week, but they've all changed their mind."

When stations in Phoenix do decide to switch over, however, Orr said analog televisions in Mohave County should experience no immediate signal interruptions, since local television translators will begin converting the signals back to analog for the convenience of local viewers. This is possible because stations throughout the county are not classified as "major broadcast stations," and are thus not subject to the switchover deadline.

Even so, Orr noted that the county does intend to eventually convert all local channels to digital as well. The county is continuing to urge households with analog televisions to purchase a converter box before the first channel is moved. According to the government's TV Converter Box Coupon Program Web site, www.dtv2009.gov, each U.S. household is eligible to receive up to two $40 coupons for the purchase of a converter box. While the coupon program reached its funding ceiling on Jan. 4, coupon requests will continue to be filled on a first-come-first-served basis as funds become available from expired coupons.

If you have already applied for a converter box coupon, you can check the status of your application by going to http://www.dtv2009.gov/CheckStatus.aspx.