Senate OKs unnecessary delay to digital TV switch

Senate OKs unnecessary delay to digital TV switch

Summary: Every night for the past couple of months, the weather person on one of my local TV news programs has been counting down the days to the nation's switch to digital television. I can almost say it in my sleep: In February 17, the old analog signals will turn off to make way for all-digital broadcasts, which means that viewers watching analog over-the-air broadcasts will lose access to their programming.

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TOPICS: Mobility, Hardware
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Every night for the past couple of months, the weather person on one of my local TV news programs has been counting down the days to the nation's switch to digital television. I can almost say it in my sleep: In February 17, the old analog signals will turn off to make way for all-digital broadcasts, which means that viewers watching analog over-the-air broadcasts will lose access to their programming.

Today, the Senate approved a four-month delay to the deadline, agreeing to extend it to June 12. The House is preparing similar legislation.

So - with 90 percent of the population reportedly ready for the switch - the U.S. government is ready to issue a delay because there are some people who still aren't ready. An Associated Press report says an estimated 6.5 million U.S households aren't ready while Reuters puts that figure at 20 million - mostly the poor, the elderly and those living in rural areas.

SIGH. Was this a case of the public being caught off-guard? Hardly. You pretty much have to have been living under a rock for the past year or so to not have heard about the digital transformation. The news has been everywhere. The National Association of Broadcasters has gone into communities to answer questions. There have been newspaper ads, radio public service announcements, messages scrolled across the screen during popular television shows.

And yet, there are those who still aren't ready.

Last week, after the House Democrats cancelled a meeting related to the delay because of opposition by Republicans, Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois said that further delay would just cause more confusion. He said, "No matter when you postpone it, there are still going to be people who are not ready."

He's right. There will always be people who won't be ready. But with so many others - viewers, stations and those who bought the rights to use that freed-up spectrum - ready to move on, the government should do exactly that. Last week, PBS said a four-month delay could cost $22 million, including the costs of extending signal transmitter leases that were set to expire on the switch-over date.

Likewise, companies that bid on that wireless spectrum have plans for it, plans that could now be impacted by a delay. Among those reportedly lobbying hardest against the delay is Qualcomm, which is ready for the wireless space to be freed so it can launch its MediaFLO mobile TV service in new markets.

By all means, let's get that digital signal into the homes that don't have it as quickly as possible. But at the same time, let's not hold up the rest of the country because - and let's be truthful about it - a handful of people didn't plan accordingly. There's was plenty of advanced notice. For those who failed to act in a timely manner, maybe it's time to curl up with a good book until they can get their hands on a converter box.

What do you think? Better to delay or time to move on? Cast your vote in the poll below.

[poll=101]

Topics: Mobility, Hardware

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37 comments
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  • Push Broadband, Delay Digital TV?

    How can we push broadband as a national initiative and then delay digital TV?

    Makes no sense. Push on and find a way to help those who are stuck.
    BobWarfield
  • Holy Arrogance Batman.

    Yes, believe it or not, there are millions who get their TV over the air. Believe it or not, they are mostly the poor. So, since the government completely screwed the pooch...

    http://voices.washingtonpost.com/posttech/2009/01/dtv_coupon_program_out_of_mone.html
    [B]Today the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which is running the coupon program, said it is nearing the program's $1.34 billion funding limit.[/B]

    So your answer is just %&%& em? Let me ask the next question, just what is so important that we can't wait a few more months until the government gets their act together and helps those for whom $55 is a serious burden like they should coming on Feb 18th?

    [B]You pretty much have to have been living under a rock for the past year or so to not have heard about the digital transformation.[/B]

    Or decide that since you can't get a coupon from a poorly run government program and decided that feeding your kids was more important than buying a full price converter box?

    TripleII
    TripleII-21189418044173169409978279405827
    • Dude...They have had time

      The DTV transition has been in the works for a LONG time now, just because the poor/elderly/etc do not WANT to move on - why should the rest of us suffer?

      The government has had its act together (coupon creation program, advertising on the local stations)...people need to get on the ball or get left out.
      JT82
      • Just a data point.

        I do a lot of computer charity work for the salvation army store. I rebuild and deliver "obsolete" desktops and the odd notebook to them to enable them on the internet. I blame the government, but for some 4 months now, the vast majority looking for coupons are denied, and the other problem, many had coupons and nobody had any in stock, so they reached 90 days and expired.

        Simply put, a LOT of people tried, and failed. When you talk to these people in person, you find out in many cases (and yes, no doubt a lot of people were lazy) they were caught in a classic government run program. :D

        Now, what is coming the day after analogue dies that we are waiting for?

        TripleII
        TripleII-21189418044173169409978279405827
        • That scenario I didn't consider

          I live in a relatively populated area, so when I did come across a store out of converter boxes, I just skipped to another town where the shelves were full. I failed to consider that for some people, especially those in really rural areas, that could be a real irony of misfortune and skipping to the next store may not be an option. For those whom it truly is not their fault, my apologies.
          D-cat
      • RE: Dude....Thay had time

        If the Goverment had it's act together why did they run out of coupons??????? A answer would be nice!!!!!!!!!!!
        Leo
        prodoti3
    • I had no problem getting the coupons...

      First come first serve. In the end, my converter boxes cost me $10 each.

      Quality of service is another issue. OTA Digital IMO is massively underpowered and despite what anybody says, unless you live in a big city, you will lose channels, and will likely need additional equipment to even keep your current ones working reliably.

      This is not an argument for the delay, a delay will not fix this issue. A delay will also not fix the issues of procrastinators either, just allow them to procrastinate longer. The coupon program may be at limit for this installment, but it will get its pot refreshed for half the amount for the next couple of years (or so I have read).

      The government, for better or worse, has already made its decision. Contracts and other financial decisions are already in place with Feb 17 in mind. I think it's a little late for the government to start second-guessing itself now. Either way, it doesn't have much of an effect for me personally, except I might be able to enjoy some of the more distant stations a little longer. If we're going to do this, then bite the bullet and do this. Sorry about the rural (like my parents, who can't even get cable, but do get a few digital stations), and yes, to h311 with the procrastinators. There has been enough time to get your app in. SOL until the next batch.
      D-cat
      • Fair enough.

        I have cable, so it is not an issue for me. Maybe I misread the tone,but it appeared to read "P*ss on em for being lazy" which to me is a very bad generalization.

        TripleII
        TripleII-21189418044173169409978279405827
        • The story, not you, I thought had the tone. (nt)

          I should be clear on that. The story bugged me, not you, cause what you say is true, and from your other post, most just take for granted you just go get it somewhere else.

          To be fair, I have no doubt many were lazy, or whatever.

          TripleII
          TripleII-21189418044173169409978279405827
    • It's television.

      It's not like they're losing electricity, water, sewer, garbage service, or something actually useful. It's television.
      CharlieSpencer
      • But, but, but...

        ...you clearly do not appreciate the human
        crisis that will take place when people will be
        denied their daily access to Tyra and American
        Idol. I?m surprised the UN Human Rights
        Commission has not been called in.
        JohnMcGrew@...
    • Good Case for the Poor

      You make a good case for the delay to help the poor. I disagree with pushing back the deadline for digital TV. Television is not neccesary for survival and can be an impediment. I stopped watching TV completely a bit over a year ago and don't miss it at all.

      Sure, I am out of the loop as far as the current crop of TV programs, but that is not a bad thing. I get my news from newspapers and the internet, I rent movies and don't have to put up with commercials.

      TV is not a right, it is optional. It is not neccesary to delay the deadline because people couldn't get a coupon to save some money to buy a converter or could use the coupon to get the converter due to shortages.

      The delay is hurting a lot more people than it would help. Broadcasters have to spend more to send both the analog and digital signals and the industries that are looking at moving into the vacated spectrum space have to wait and lose money on equipment that can't be used yet.

      It is best to stick with the planned schedule and not worry about those who will miss the change. The coupons should still be available for several months after the change over to help those who weren't ready.
      sboverie
  • RE: Senate OKs unnecessary delay to digital TV switch

    Yes, absolutely, @#&! EM!!!!!! The GOVT. program was not poorly run, people waited until the last minute to ask for the coupon. And why in the name of prime time TV are we (taxpayers) funding that program anyway?!?!?!?! I don't remember the GOVT. buying our family a TV antenna for the house when I was a kid. Finally, if you can't afford the $50 for a converter box, maybe instead of watching TV, you should be looking for a JOB!!! Jay, Highalnd Park IL
    arrohd
    • Get a grip.

      Do you know many many thousands of people had coupons and NOTHING TO BUY. Expiring coupons and no stock = screwed.

      You really need to visit a salvation army store sometime. Catch the single mom buying furniture for her kids on a tight budget because the waste of skin took off.

      You are as bad as the blog author. Not all poor people are lazy, and not all ZDNet posters know what they are talking about.

      TripleII
      TripleII-21189418044173169409978279405827
    • Why you're funding it.

      This is information the government has done a -very- poor job of disseminating.

      The reason you're funding it is because the outgoing analog broadcast system uses a wide band of electromagnetic spectrum. The digital signal uses much less. The change frees up a considerable portion of the public airways.

      This allows the feds to do at least two things. First, some of the liberated frequencies will be turned over to emergency responders like police, firefighters, etc. so they can all be on the same push. Emergency responses during the Sept. 11th attacks were handicapped by the responding agencies being unable to communicate with each other. Second, some of the frequencies will be leased to communications companies. The lease payments will far exceed the paltry amount spent to fund converter boxes.
      CharlieSpencer
  • RE: Senate OKs unnecessary delay to digital TV switch

    How about "Stimulus package" of new digital TV sets for the poor? Why is everyone so afraid to give something FREE to the people of the United States while trillion and a half dollars will be price of ?freeing? Iraq and countless more billons (or trillions) to keep hundreds of military bases around the World even in places where they are not needed.
    Also helping almost every other country in the World with military and/or economic aid?but give something free to America people, God forbid!
    orasac
    • To Do list, one check

      [b] > How about "Stimulus package" of new digital TV sets for the poor?[/b]

      You don't need new TV's, the converter boxes do the same job (don't confuse DTV with HDTV). The coupon program is exactly that (Stimulus package), and it appears a good chunk of Americans did take advantage of it. No, I didn't find any $40 boxes in the stores, but bringing the cost down to $10 was quite acceptable.

      AFA the gov't having its priorities bass akwards, I have to ask, what else is new? While I don't expect unnecessary military spending to end any time soon, we can hope with the new administration that maybe it'll be significantly reduced.

      ---
      Edit: forgot the "quote" tag doesn't work here.
      D-cat
  • RE: Senate OKs unnecessary delay to digital TV switch

    Digital TV has already been delayed over ten years by the American government. It's way past time to move on. Those that lag will catch up once they start to miss their favorite stories.
    The help should be there if they are old or technically challenged and cannot handle the change over alone.
    Boutmar
  • --? and let's be truthful about it --?

    A quote from this editorial: "Let?s not hold up the rest of the country because-- and
    let?s be truthful about it-- a handful of people didn?t plan accordingly."

    Only a total airhead would refer to 6 - 20 million households as "a handful", which
    means that you must have a financial vested interest in the switchover because -- and
    let?s be truthful about it -- few people really give a flying squirrel about digital. Most
    folks feel that it's not wanted, it's not needed, it'll only benefit a select few, but will
    certainly mess up the menial and unemployed lives of a vast number of people. Wake
    up!
    jefflass
  • RE: Senate OKs unnecessary delay to digital TV switch

    I heard there was a shortage of converter boxes at $40.00 ....so this would be an obvious reason to delay. Also I m sure many old and ill people rely on TV to make the day go by, more that the the other 80%.
    MarkSpeevak