Some Australians may be left in the digital dark

Underprivileged Australians still left with conventional TV sets may find themselves tuned out when the analogue network is switched off in 2008.

Underprivileged Australians still left with conventional TV sets may find themselves tuned out when the analogue network is switched off in 2008.

AUSTRALIA (ZDNet Australia) -According to Australian Consumer Association's IT Policy Officer, Charles Britton, the federal government currently has no plans to close the digital divide when 2008 comes and provide free conversions to digital TV for lower income earners.

"There is nothing in the pipeline at present," he said.

Britton claims a large percentage of the population will not be ready for the change over from analogue to digital TV by 2008.

In April 2000, the Productivity Commission submitted a proposal to government to provide set-top boxes for the nation in anticipation of the conversion to digital TV. However, Britton says the government knocked back the proposal.

Although it would not be entirely feasible for the government to hand out free digital set-tops to every household, consumer groups say an initiative to help deprived areas be a part of the conversion to digital clearly would.

"There seems to be no plan, the whole analogue switch off hasn't been planned well, they seem to have plucked a date out of the air," Britton said.

Finding solutions to the issues involved in switching the public to a digital signal is not simple.

"It all depends on the commercial developments, the technology could become cheaper," Briton said.

However, he believes the public won't take kindly to being told to buy a new TV in 2008, or even later. "It's a big change," he said.

"Consumers may stay away from purchasing digital set-top boxes or TVs all together."