Gov wants yet another DTV transition delay

by Paul William Tenny

I like to speak occasionally on technology issues as they affect television because I believe I have a decent understand of these things. **I was approached by Consumers Digest to write a story for their magazine on the digital television transition and the future of television in general based on what I've written on this blog, so I'm not exactly ranting on things that I don't understand here.

That said, I think the time for procrastination by the federal government has passed. It's time to stop causing television stations grief and to stop babying lazy consumers.

It's time to get this show on the road.
The transition from analog signals to digital began in 2005 when Congress passed the Digital Transition and Public Safety Act. Digital signals provide superior visual quality than analog, and uses the available radio frequency more efficiently. The switch means that consumers won't have to deal with ghosting or white noise on their televisions -- digital is an all-or-nothing proposition where either you'll get a flawless picture or you'll get no picture at all -- more radio frequencies will be available for emergency services, and there should be enough left over to create a new market for wireless broadcast.

Consumers must in turn buy converter boxes for their television that will enable them to receive the digital broadcasts, but only if your primary source is an outdoor antenna. If you've got cable or satellite, then this won't affect you as you're already receiving television from a digital source.

The federal government created a coupon program that discounted the price of these converter boxes for people who couldn't otherwise afford them. That program has since run out of funds and this author wonders if the program should continue to be funded given the economic crisis. Television is a wonderful source of news and entertainment, but in a recession -- quite possibly the second worst in U.S. history -- does the government really need to be spending hundreds of millions of dollars just so people can watch TV?

But more to my point, this program has been in the works since 2005 and has already been delayed at least once. If consumers haven't bothered to buy the converter boxes that they need even when the government is basically giving them away with the coupons, why should we wait any longer? People have had four years to get with the program and warnings have been airing on local broadcast channels for months now.

The country will never be 100% ready for anything, much less something like the transition to digital television. If some lazy people can't be bothered to get with the program until the government delays the transition three or four times, then that's really their problem -- a problem they are creating for the millions of people who did buy the converters and the hundreds if not thousands of television stations (the actual broadcasters, not the networks) who were forced to spend millions of dollars to upgrade their systems are losing money trying to run their analog and digital systems side-by-side for no good reason.

Yet here we are, looking to delay the transition by another three months. Broadcasters will have to spend more money to run both systems, the government will have to waste more money on coupons, and there is also the matter of the newly vacated spectrum already having been sold to a handful of telecommunications companies that thought they were going to be free to use it as soon as mid-February.

I saw we just get it over with and deal with the problems after.

The world, as I see it, will not end.

**Consumers digest made me an offer for the story and then repeatedly ignored every attempt at contacting them afterward. It was ridiculously unprofessional and I recommend never doing business with them if you have the opportunity, and if you feel like it, boycott their magazine as well. They don't deserve your money.
in Television


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1 Comment

I agree with you, Paul, but there are a lot of really clueless people out there. I just read a news article the other day about Hawaii's recent transition to DTV transmission only -- they're a month ahead of the schedule due to some environmental concerns in that state.

And quite a few Hawaiians were surprised by the fact that they could no longer watch TV. Seems they didn't pay attention to the commercials, or misunderstood them or ...

I know that when I first heard about the switch to DTV back in '05, I thought it meant I had to buy a HD TV. (And so did some other friends.) When I went online to research it further, I realized I was wrong.

But "babying" appears to be an American vice. We baby consumers who purchase homes they can't afford, we've babied criminal until recently when states started getting tough with 3 strikes laws (and even then, that's a form of babying). We encourgate being a "victim" in this country. We don't encourage personal responsibility.

Sorry, all of that just sort of gushed out...

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