Cord-Cutting 101: Free Digital TV

You know that a TV antenna means free HDTV, but do you know why there’s free antenna TV? The history behind free OTA TV continue to inspire many Americans to cut the cord. Will you join these cord cutters?

Getting free TV stations is one of the biggest reasons why people become cord cutters. Knowing why there is so much free TV available in every media market is Cord Cutting 101 as well. Many people with TV antenna skip past this little history lesson to dive right into all those free digital TV stations. While we don’t blame for wanting to watch their favorite news, sports, and weather, you’re also part of a rich history and tradition. We believe it’s important for you to know this history. This is why we’re sharing why there is so much free TV available to cord cutters.

Why Free Digital TV?

Because it’s the law. Way back in 1934, the government decided to classify broadcast spectrum as a public trust, just like national parks. This meant that all broadcasters must broadcast these TV channels to everyone as a means of performing a public service. This meant that the public wouldn’t have to pay for this service. If people wanted to watch TV, all they’d have to pay for is the TV set and the antenna. So you could say we have the folks in Washington, D.C. to thank for all that free HDTV that floating around out there, just waiting to be grabbed.

Since the invention of the TV, people took advantage of these free broadcast channels. Then, in the 1970s, cable television was a game-changer because it provided a TV experience that was more consistent. For the next 30+ years, cable (and eventually satellite) continued to grow. By 2000, what few OTA viewers were still around had access to about six channels. This scarcity, coupled with the advances in cable and satellite TV, persuaded an entire generation to believe that a TV antenna was nothing more than outdated technology and a thing of the past. (Admittedly, I was a member of that generation, having had the opportunity to help my father dismantle our old Yagi antenna.)

Times Change…

The transition from analog to digital programming, which happened between 2004-2009, played a big role in the resurgence of OTA TV. This transition’s stated goal was to provide an increase in signal reliability for 90 percent of those in the Dominant Market Area (DMA), which is the government-defined region served by a broadcast station. This meant that instead of having just one channel per station, every broadcaster could have five, six, or even seven channels, all using the same broadcast tower.

All of a sudden, every TV market grew to include 50-100 channels of free TV! Also, when TV stations went digital, the quality of their broadcast signals were vastly improved. This made the idea of hoisting an antenna up to the roof tempting, since it meant receiving TV signal in a higher quality than ever before.

Economies Change…

From about 2007 to 2008, people began to reconsider the possibilities of antenna-based TV. This change of heart and mind coincided with the government authorizing two $50 vouchers per household to help retrofit older televisions for digital broadcasts. This was designed to help people to be compliant with the most current version of the Telecommunications Act. By 2013, cable TV averaged about $100 per month, per household – which represents a near tripling in costs – while most Americans’ salaries remained stagnant.

This major shift in economics was a driving force for many Americans to discover, or rediscover, the benefits of OTA TV reception. It also coincided with the rise of streaming devices, which only add the amount of TV-viewing possibilities for cord cutters. By 2015, many people begin flocking to the growing cord-cutting movement, and it’s easy to see why. They’re still earning what they’ve earned since 2000, but they are paying $100 per month for cable and at least $50 per month for high-speed Internet. By comparison, OTA TV provides an average of 50 free TV channels while streaming services remain competitive.

Cut the Cord Today!

Are you ready for free digital TV? There are many high-quality, free HDTV for you to enjoy. If you’re ready to join the growing ranks of American who are cutting the cord, Solid Signal also can show you how. And it all starts with a phone call. If you want to save big money while still enjoying all your favorite OTA TV shows, contact Solid Signal today. You can reach us at 888-233-7563. We’ll help you find the best TV antenna for your location and needs, and we also have plenty of how-to information, from installation instructions to everything else for cord cutters.

About the Author

Jake Buckler
Jake Buckler is a cord-cutter, consumer electronics geek, and Celtic folk music fan. Those qualities, and his writing experience, helped him land a copywriting gig at Signal Group, LLC. He also contributes to The Solid Signal Blog.