April 12

Did you know that most people in America can receive digital television (DTV) and high-definition television (HDTV) for free?  It’s a lot easier than you might think.  And you can save yourself a lot in cable or satellite costs.  The method is especially worthwhile for those second and third TVs (like in a home office or bedroom) where you don’t want to spend more cable / satellite money…but still want a great picture.

You can even get free digital / HDTV on your laptop or PC.   (I’ll describe how at the end of this article.)

First off, check which stations you should be able to receive from your home’s location.  Just type in your ZIP code at the following site:   http://www.fcc.gov/mb/engineering/maps/.   In the left-hand column, you’ll see a list of your local stations and relative signal strength.

If your home television already has a digital / HTDV tuner built in, all you need is a simple antenna to receive these stations.  (Some of these antennas are so small, they can fit in the palm of your hand.)   See below for an easy way to tell if your TV has a built-in digital / HTDV tuner.   If your TV is “HTDV ready” — you’ll need a simple tuner plus the antenna.

As far as antennas, there are many choices between $20 – $45.  For starters, do a search on Amazon for “tv digital antenna.”  For more info, check out http://www.antennaweb.org/aw/info.aspx?page=more_info

HINT:  In many cases, you can place the antenna inside your attic — so you won’t have to put something on your roof.  And, if the signals are strong in your area, you can place a simple “rabbit ears” style antenna right near the TV.

If your TV set is “HDTV ready” you’ll need a tuner.  Again, turn to Amazon and search “ATSC TV tuner.”

HINT:  If your TV has any of the following words, you should be all set to receive digital TV:  “Digital Tuner Built-In,” “Digital Receiver,” “Integrated Digital Tuner,” “Digital Tuner,” “DTV,” “ATSC,” or “HDTV” (High Definition TV).

For additional reference, check out this FAQ page published by the government: http://www.dtv.gov/consumercorner.html.

And here’s an excellent information site by Engadget:  http://hd.engadget.com/2005/07/19/hdtv-antenna-help/

Finally:  If you want to receive free digital TV on your laptop or desktop, all you need is a digital / HDTV tuner that plugs into a USB port.  Again, pop over to Amazon and use the search phrase “usb digital tv tuner.”  You can get these nifty devices for as little as $25.

Enjoy watching digital / HDTV TV for free!