As of June 13, 2009, television in the United States ceased transmitting over-the-air television signals in analog format to comply with a mandate by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Instead, these signals are now broadcast in digital format. This means that those who receive television service via an antenna on top of their television or house will need to have a television that is capable of receiving digital information in order to continue to watch programming. Those who don't have digital-capable television need a digital-to-analog converter box to continue to receive transmissions. Only certain consumers need this box while others can continue watching programming as normal with no effect.
Note the type of television service received in the home. Consumers who receive subscription cable or satellite television service will not be affected by the conversion to digital and will not need a converter box.
Consider the age of the television being used. As of March 1, 2007, the FCC mandated that all televisions sold in the United States must come equipped with a digital tuner.
Check the specifications of the television if built prior to March 1, 2007. Although it wasn't mandated by the federal government, television manufacturers began including digital tuners in their products leading up to the deadline. This can be recognized by the words "DTV", "ATSC", "HDTV" or "Digital Receiver" on the television's original box or within its instruction manual.
Evaluate the television quality. If using an antenna to receive television programming, check to see if any programming actually getting to the television. If the antenna is set up properly but no signal is being received by the television, it may need a converter box.
Call the FCC at 1-888-CALLFCC when in doubt. Although, as of 2010, its local assistance efforts for users with analog-only television sets has ceased, its call center remains open to aid consumers with the transition.
Very old televisions will, without fail, need a converter box if receiving transmissions via an antenna. Digital television signals did not begin to gain significant popularity in the United States until 1996. Televisions older than that will not have digital tuners.
If using an antenna, be sure that it is installed correctly if the television is not receiving any signal. As of October 2010, the digital conversion is over one year old. Consumers will not be able to immediately recognize if the problem is due to an analog tuner or incorrect installation of or damage to the antenna due to the fact that no one has received any analog television transmissions for over a year.