With the Feb. 17 deadline to switch to digital television (DTV) looming, many local residents are hooking up their boxes and adjusting their antennas. In order to be ready for the switch, viewers will need a converter box or a television with a digital tuner. All televisions made after March 1, 2007 are required to have a digital tuner installed.

Owners of older television sets need not worry, though. Getting a converter box is an easy process. Earlier in the year, coupons were available to assist television owners in their switch to digital, but the popularity of the program has since caused a shortage of the coupons. There is now a waiting list for the $20 off coupons, which allow purchasers to get a digital converter box at a discounted rate.

And consumers only have until March 31 to request the coupons through a government Web site, www.dtv2009.gov.

“I have had a lot of customers come in requesting the converter boxes,” said Kenneth Gifford, owner of Gifford’s TV and Electronics in Stephenville.

Some customers have reported having difficulties hooking up the converter boxes, but for the most part, installation is fairly simple. If customers do experience trouble, many local retailers, such as Gifford’s, offer an installation service.

There are many benefits to switching to digital television. Customers will get more channels then with over-the-air services.

Also, if customers have an HDTV with an incoming HD signal, the picture will be clearer.

“They (the channels) will either be perfect or they won’t be there at all,” said Gifford.

Customers still have time to purchase converter boxes. The boxes can be purchased at many local retail stores.

Not everyone needs a converter box to keep their television on. If customers subscribe to cable or satellite services, a converter box is not needed, but if a customer has an older television set, they may be in need.

For more information on the switch to digital television, customers can go online to www.dtv.gov. This Web site offers answers to frequently asked questions regarding the switch and easy installation instructions.

And for anyone concerned about what to do with their non-HD television set, there are ways to recycle the old set.

Some retailers such as Best Buy or Wal-Mart offer programs that allow customers to bring in old televisions to be recycled.

Visit www.takebackmytv.com for more information.