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TVs switch over to digital signal

Some television viewers in Covington County who turned on their television sets this morning may have been surprised to see nothing but a blank screen.

Last night at 11:01 p.m., the nation’s television broadcasters shut off their analog signals to switch to an all-digital broadcast. As a result, there is no longer television service for those who have non-digital televisions and do not subscribe to either a cable or satellite provider.

Citizens who own older televisions and receive their broadcasts from an external antenna were instructed to purchase a digital converter box. The federal government issued $40 coupons to help provide boxes to those who could not afford them.

The switch was originally set to occur on Feb. 17, but was postponed when the government ran out of funding for the coupon program.

Jim Wilson, owner of Radio Shack in Andalusia, said the converter boxes have been selling regularly for “over a year.”

“We’ve been selling them for over a year, ever since they announced the initial (February) date,” Wilson said Thursday. “I’m sure people are waiting until the last minute, and we’ll have even more coming in (today) and Saturday.

“The thing to remember is that you can’t really receive a digital signal on a television that has rabbit ears, whether you’ve got the converter box or not. You’ll have to purchase some kind of external antenna, as well.”

Ivan Bishop, owner of TV Cable Company in Andalusia, said that his subscribers do not need to worry about their television signals.

“If you’re already signed up with cable, then nothing is going to change,” he said.

The government is still issuing converter box coupons, but it will take two to three weeks before they are received in the mail. The coupons can be requested by visiting online at www.dtv.gov or by calling 1-888-388-2009.