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DTV switch set for Friday

COVINGTON - On Friday analog broadcast television will transition to an all-digital system.

Television owners with satellite or cable TV should not be affected by the change, according to the Digital Television Transition Coalition, a group of business, trade and industry groups formed to educate the public about the switch.

The transition should also go smoothly for those watching digital TVs via antenna, because only over-air signals will be affected and digital TVs have built-in tuners.

Only those receiving analog television over the air or via antenna will need to take action to continue to have access to free broadcasting and local television stations. Televisions purchased prior to 1998 are typically analog.

Those who fall into that category have three options. One is to purchase a digital-to-analog converter box that plugs into an existing television. The boxes cost between $40 and $70.

U.S. households can request up to two coupons valued at $40 each. Each coupon can go toward the purchase of a single set-top converter box that will allow the continuation of over-the-air television on an analog set. To apply for a coupon, visit www.dtv2009.gov.

Another option is to subscribe to a cable, satellite or telecommunications service provider. Charter Communications, the primary local cable provider in Newton County, states on its Web site that subscribers are automatically covered and do not have to do anything to prepare for the transition.

The final option is to purchase a new television with a built-in digital tuner.

"People who don't have cable, satellite service or a new TV need to order their DTV converter box coupons," said Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund, which is partnering with community organizations to provide assistance to seven cities with at-risk populations, including Atlanta. "This transition is about access to life-saving public service announcements. It's about letting communities know when a hurricane is about to strike, a snowstorm threatens a whiteout, that a fire is blazing toward it or that there is a natural or national disaster."

Those who want to learn more about the transition can visit Kmart in Covington, located at 6239 Turner Lake Road, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday.

Staff with the Federal Communications Commission will be available to answer questions about the DTV transition, demonstrate how to install a converter box to analog TV, help consumers sign up for converter coupons and provide informational materials.

For additional DTV information call 1-888-CALL-FCC.

The FCC has also contracted with INSTALLS Inc. to provide underserved populations in-home assistance for the government's transition to nationwide digital television. Through the end of June, INSTALLS will provide in-home converter box installation services for senior citizens, those with disabilities, people who speak English as a second language and others in need of help. For more information, call 1-800-582-4250 or visit http://dtvhelp.installs.com.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.