In June 2009 the FCC mandated that local networks broadcast their content digitally as opposed to in an analog fashion. That decision requires people who do not want to pay for television programming content on networks such as ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX and PBS to use a digital converter box with their televisions in order to get the content.
Analog Signals and Converter Boxes
Before June 2009, if you did not want to pay for cable or satellite television channels, you could receive free content from your local networks through an antenna that you connected to your TV. The Antenna picked up the analog signals sent by TV station towers near your home. After that date, those antennas would no longer work. You need a digital converter box if you want to continue to use your analog television set. If you connect a digital converter box to your TV, you will be able to watch basic cable content.
Digital Signals and Converter Boxes
All television stations now broadcast their programming content in a digital format. If you want to receive this basic digital cable without having a paid cable subscription, and you use an analog TV, you will need to buy a converter box or upgrade to a digital television. Digital signals are broadcast along a separate channel owned and operated by each television network station.
Digital Converter Box
A digital converter box is required for all people using analog television sets who also do not receive pay-for cable service from a cable television service provider. If you have an analog set and want to receive free network programming without having to pay for your television service, you will need to purchase and install a digital converter box.
Setting up Your Converter Box
Set up your digital converter box by unscrewing the coaxial cable from your TV "Antenna In (RF)" port on the back of your television set. Screw that cable into the "Antenna In (RF)" port on the back of your digital converter box. Your digital converter box comes with its own coaxial cable. Connect one end of this cable into the "Out to TV (RF)" port on the back of the converter box. Plug the other end into the "Antenna In (RF)" port on your television set. Plug in the power cords on both the TV set and the converter box and tune your TV to channel 3 or 4.
When You Don't Need a Converter Box
If you have a newer digital television set, you won't need a digital converter box as the purpose of the converter box is to convert the digital signal into a format that can be read by an analog TV. If you have a paid cable subscription, you will not need a digital converter box. A digital TV is already set up internally to process a digital signal. To receive on-air, cost-free programming from your local networks, connect a digital VHF and UHF antenna. If you purchase an HDTV antenna, make sure it is capable of processing both VHF and UHF signals so that you can receive all available free content.