Beginning Feb. 18, 2009, anyone who does not own a digital set and still receives their programming via over-the-air antennas will no longer be able to receive a picture. Broadcasting, by law, will become completely digital; analog (remember rabbit-ears?) will end.
But again, the turn-off date is not until 2009. At that point, to watch broadcast TV — if you're still using an older television set — you'll need a converter box to watch TV.
The converter boxes are expected to cost between $50 and $70 and will be available at most major electronics retail stores. Starting Tuesday, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration will begin accepting requests for two $40 coupons per household to be used toward the purchase of the boxes.
Viewers who have satellite or cable service will not need a box.To request a coupon, consumers can apply online at http://www.dtv2009.gov starting Tuesday. The government also has set up a 24-hour hotline to take requests, 1-888-DTV-2009.
Of course, you can always pay for cable or satellite, and not worry.
[UPDATE 2008.02.15: The federal government said Friday [15 February 2008] it will begin mailing out $40 coupons next week to consumers to help pay for converter boxes that will save their analog sets from becoming obsolete. More here.]