Summit County prepares for digital TV |

Summit County prepares for digital TV

It may not be Y2K, but converting from analog television signals to digital technology has provoked confusion and anxiety among some consumers.

Summit County has spent half a million dollars since 2005 getting ready to make the transition to digital television in the spring of next year, according to Summit County engineer Derrick Radke.

The digital signal will give viewers a crisper, clearer picture and free up lower-frequency signals for government use. All West Cable spokesman Matthew Weller said digital channels take less bandwidth than traditional analog signals and allow broadcasters to air multiple channels on a single frequency.

But they do not spell the end for some rabbit-ear antennae on top of TVs.

Summit County residents whose televisions receive signals through public access airwaves have until next spring to buy digital converter boxes or replace old sets, Radke said.

The transition will not affect satellite TV and cable users, Weller said, because those customers already receive a digital signal courtesy of their provider.

"We saw what was coming and converted everything to digital about a year ago," Weller said.

Summit County plans to transition to an all-digital signal a few months after the Federal Communications Commissions mandate that takes place Feb. 19, 2009.

Congress determined the deadline for major broadcasters to convert to digital technology based on when experts estimated 85 percent of U.S. households in a given market have the technology to receive digital over-the-air signals, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Telecommunications and Information website.

To help non-cable and satellite users convert to digital technology, the federal government is offering all U.S. households two coupons, worth $40 each, to be used toward the purchase of up to two digital-to-analog converter boxes, according to the website

Digital converters do not improve picture quality, Weller said, but they do save viewers the expense of buying a new TV set.

TVs have carried internal digital tuners for the last several years, Radke said, so if you have bought a TV in the last five years you likely do not need to get a external converter box.

Televisions have used an analog signal since the 1930s.

Weller said analog signals weaken as they travel, making images appear "snowy" with interference by the time they reach television sets miles away.

Digital technology beams a code of zeros and ones to lessen interference and provide consistently better picture quality, according to the experts.

Translator stations on Lewis Peak, Quarry Mountain and elsewhere are not required to carry the digital signal, but can be booted off their current analog frequencies if those frequencies are sold after the February deadline.

The FCC may use the lower analog frequencies for emergency responders, Weller said.

Translator stations on Lewis Peak, Quarry and elsewhere have been broadcasting some digital signals along with analog signals for the past few years Radke explained.

"It costs a little more to provide both signals," Radke said.

Currently, Summit County broadcasts KUTV, KSL, KUED, KTVX, KSTU, KBYU and the WB television stations at some locations in the Snyderville Basin.

"We’re working toward getting the rest of them on," Radke said. "We’re going to make the transition about the same time [as the major broadcasters]."

The county has 10 translator sites. They are on Quarry Mountain, Lewis Peak and in Coalville, Henefer, Echo Canyon, Woodland, Wanship, Samack, Oakley and Peoa.

Summit County engineers have been changing equipment, buying new antennas, reconfiguring computer chips and converting analog equipment at the translator stations for three years. "It’s an expensive process," Radke said. "We don’t have any choice." The county plans to apply for federal grants to help cover about half the total additional cost of conversions.

For more information on how to apply for a TV converter box coupon, go to or visit

Apply for digital converter box:

As of Saturday, there were 290 days left to buy a digital-to-analog converter or a new TV, according to

Between January 1, 2008 and March 31, 2009, U.S. households can request two coupons in one of four ways:

Apply online at

Call the Coupon Program 24-hour hotline 1-888-DTV-2009 (1-888-388-2009).

Mail a coupon application to: PO BOX 2000, Portland, OR 97208-2000.

Fax a coupon application to 1-877-DTV-4ME2 (1-877-388-4632)

Deaf or hard of hearing callers may dial 1-877-530-2634 (English/TTY) or 1-866-495-1161 (Spanish/TTY). TTY Service is available from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern Time Monday through Friday.

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