From staff and wire reports
COLUMBUS â€” Folks not sure if they need to purchase a converter box before television signals go digital next month will have the opportunity to find out Thursday.
At 7:30 p.m., the state will conduct a five-minute test to inform viewers whether they are prepared for the digital television conversion, the Ohio Department of Commerce reported. If their TV is not equipped to receive a digital signal, viewers will see a graphic informing them of that fact instead of regular programming.
On Feb. 17, the federal government will require all television stations to turn off analog signals and begin broadcasting in digital. Viewers currently using antennas have three options: purchase a television with a digital tuner, purchase a converter box to plug into their current television, or subscribe to cable, satellite or other subscription service.
If viewers who subscribe to a service see the message during the test, they should contact their provider.
To cover most of the cost of converter boxes, the federal government had been offering two $40 coupons to every household. However, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, an arm of the Commerce Department, said this month it had hit the $1.34 billion funding limit set by Congress to pay for converter box coupons.
There is currently a waiting list. Coupons can be requested by visiting www.DTV2009.gov or calling 888-DTV-2009. The deaf or hard of hearing can call 877-530-2634.
Converter boxes are available at most electronic retail stores. A coupon is not needed to purchase the box.
In 2005, Congress required the digital shift to free up chunks of wireless spectrum to be used for emergency-response networks and commercial services. The government has raised roughly $19 billion by auctioning off this spectrum.