According to the federal government, televisions will go digital, effective Feb. 17, 2009. This new requirement will affect older model television sets with rabbit ears or a roof top antenna. Therefore, over-the-air signals would no longer be able to receive signals. This requirement will greatly impact senior citizens and African-Americans with older model television sets.

Most senior citizens are unaware of technology and how it affects them in the long run. Seniors are on a fixed income, paying for life and health insurance, medicine and other amenities on a daily basis. The federal government is forcing seniors to dig deep in their pockets and scrape for money, for something they do not understand or know little about, in order to watch free TV.

Wait, there is more-the federal government is giving away $40 coupons on a first come, first served basis. Converter boxes range from $39 to $75 or more per box. Is this really fair? The federal government report states 21 million over-the-air households would be affected. They are fixed-income families, senior citizens, people with disabilities, and individuals who speak another language besides English. The report strongly stressed that African-American communities would experience the greater impact of the digital change.

Citizens of Austin, please take the government up on their offer and apply for the $40 coupon and get the box. Please remember you have 90 days to purchase the converter box with the coupon.

Also, it’s two per household so start applying now.

Once you get your coupon, go to Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Cook Brothers, Circuit City and Radio Shack and do some comparison shopping for the cheapest price. Keep in mind if you are thinking about purchasing a television set, this is the time to do so-before the holidays.

Ask the right questions-for example, what year was the television model made? Does it receive digital signal? And the most important question, do I need a converter box in addition to the television?

The questions in most minds are what a converter box is and what it provides to an average viewer? A converter box is a Digital Television Transition device. The Public Safety Act of 2005 requires all television stations to stop broadcasting in analog and to broadcast in digital. Since 9/11, lawmakers were livid that firefighters could not communicate with each other and other emergency responders because of analog transmissions interfering.

Lawmakers put the Safety Act into effect, so emergency responders could effectively communicate with each other during disaster. The benefit of a converter box is viewers will receive a clearer picture on all stations; viewers will receive some additional channels from basic cable that you normally would not get on a regular analog television.

If you do not get a converter box by Feb. 17, 2009 you will only see static or snow. If you have cable or satellite, you are fine. Remember, cable and satellite rates are expected to go up soon. So, get the box anyway.

To apply

You can apply online at www.DTV2009.GOV, via phone at 1-888-DTV-2009 (1-888-388-2009), mail ATT: TV Converter Box Coupon Program P.O. BOX 2000 Portland, Oregon 97208, and via fax at 1-877-DTV-4ME2.