On June 12, 2009, all broadcast stations are going to get rid of their analog signal and upgrade to a digital signal. What does this mean to you? You are going to get a crisper picture on your television set, whether or not you choose to subscribe to any cable company at all.
But besides a clearer picture without purchasing cable or satellite television, a digital signal can be split into multiple channels and programming, giving you programming choices you didn't have before. For example, if channel 5 in your area shows prime-time sitcoms, channel 5-1 can show a movie, while channel 5-2 might be a 24-hour weather channel. It certainly beats the days of five free channels.
No matter new and expensive your TV set is, you will still either have to have an antenna on your roof or an antenna attached to your television set to pick up reception on digital channels. The difference in equipment is whether you have to have the tuner box. If you bought a television after March 2007, all new TVs were required to have built-in digital tuners. However, if you have a computer monitor that you currently use as a TV, you will need the tuner box.
For instance, I have an HD monitor hooked up to a tuner box right now. The U.S. government's $40 coupon program brought my tuner box price down to $10. The coupons are available on a "while supplies last" basis at www.dtv.gov. Your setup will cost you anywhere from $60 to $100 (or $20 to $60 with the coupon). Of course, rooftop antennas will increase your cost. If you want to pick up HD programming, you will have to have an antenna and tuner specifically for HD programming. For this, you are looking at at least $100 for an antenna and tuner.
The Bottom Line
Whether you drop your paid television programming service depends on how much television you watch and what channels. If you are using your cable service just to get broadcasting channels, the new digital television mandate is going to save you tons of money. However, if you watch movie channels or programs on actual cable channels, you still need cable. The only use for this service you will then have is to use the tuner box in one room to save $5 a month on cable service. Either way, happy viewing and happy saving! (Use coupons strategically to score big savings on everyday purchases. Read Coupon Shopping: Clip Your Way To Savings.)