Going retro to TV with antenna


We're cutting the cable. Our cable TV bill has crept up to $130 month, after enduring steady price hikes and ever seductive add-ons. Somehow we've let ourselves creep into the "Biggest Value Pak" from Charter cable that alone is costing us $75, before taxes. So we're jettisoning it, and we're not moving to satellite. We're going retro to broadcast TV, antenna and all.

It ain't the broadcast of old. I'm getting my family outfitted for digital television, with its clear pictures and surround-sound audio. We've gotten a taste of digital broadcasts while testing high-definition TVs. We don't own an HD set ourselves but know the digital broadcasts look great on old-fashioned standard sets, too.

We'll get channels that cable doesn't carry, including three extra PBS feeds. And while I've written a bit about the new over-the-air broadcasts (including here), I'm curious to see if they're enough to entertain our family of four.

Plus, they're free. Well, not entirely. I've sprung $170 for a digital tuner box (why are they so expensive?) and may need a better antenna than the rabbit ears stored in the basement. Still, I can recoup my setup costs within a few months of being decabled.

There's a lot of whining about the conversion to digital, with analog broadcasts now scheduled to switch off in 2009. But there is little talk about what's gained. Now we're going to see it firsthand.