Well we’re just about 6 weeks away from the great digital television switch over. No doubt you’ve heard many a public service announcement, read many an article telling you that if you have cable television, you’re good to go. However if you’re one of the many subscribers who hooked up cable because it was the only way to get any reception at all, then you may want to consider cutting the cord.

As an avid PBS watcher I noticed when reading my monthly magazine that there were additional PBS stations that I was not getting. They are PBS stations that are sent out over the air in digital format, and it appeared that the only way to get them was through Comcast using their digital equipment. With everything I was reading about digital television I wondered if I would get them without cable using a digital converter.

My experiment
I decided to conduct an experiment and purchased a Zenith DTT901 converter box. It was easy to setup, and I have now tried it with both of my televisions using both the regular rabbit ear antenna that came with my 15 year old Toshiba television, and the Radio Shack antenna that I purchased several years ago for my 6 year old Toshiba television. The converter came with a remote control which was a plus since the remote for my newer television had died and would cost more than the converter to replace.

I live on the top 2 floors of a small brownstone, on a narrow street in the South End. My living room is at the top of the house, and its where my newer smaller television lives. Reception with the converter box is excellent. In my bedroom one floor below, the reception with the converter box is less perfect. When changing channels I sometimes have to get up and adjust the antenna.

Programming differences
So what’s the difference in terms of programming? Without cable I get far fewer channels. But wait – depending on your preferences, that may not be so bad. I no longer get a plethora of shopping, religious or foreign language channels. I also no longer get MyTV, NECN, CN8, Community Programming and the Educational Channel. Of these I occasionally watch CN8, although it appears to be gone now, and NECN, and I will miss being able to listen to WBUR on channels 12 and 50 where the reception beats the one on my radio.

What have I gotten in return? In addition to the nifty on screen guide the Zenth converter box comes with, I get WGBH World, WGBH Create, WGBH Kids, ION Life, ION Worship, ION Qubo, and WHDH Weather Plus. While Qubo appears to be strictly for young kids, WGBH Kids also has programming for older kids and curious adults. While WGBH Kids and World appear to only recycle current or past ‘GBH programs, this is not entirely the case for WGBH Create which is also know as Create TV. While you will see the best of WGBH’s how-to programs you will so see the best of public television’s lifestyle programs, many of which are not broadcast on WGBH. If you like Create and you may also like ION Life, another channel with lifestyle programming. In addition to these new channels I also receive an additional low wattage Boston channel (WHDN-LD) that gets its programming from WHDT in Florida. WHDT is a broadcast partner of Deutsche Welle which provides international news and lifestyle programming. WHDT also broadcasts home shopping programs.

Fox – Channel 25
Fox TV’s analog signal is totally gone. They had a problem with a transmission tower recently and have no plans to fix it. The only way to get Fox programming is via cable or with a digital converter box.

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