One of the sticking points in the plan to free up wireless spectrum currently in use by analog TV broadcasts is the fate of those remaining people that cling to their analog TVs, since those TVs will cease to work once the spectrum switches over. Congress has approved plans to subsidize the cost of digital-to-analog converters, which, while expensive, seems well worth it for the spectrum that it will free up. Ultimately, it only affects a small number of people, so that limits the cost of the subsidy. But now Congress is pressuring the Commerce Department to expand the program to include cable TV subscribers that also happen to have an extra analog TV. This seems a bit silly. It's one thing to argue that people who don't buy cable shouldn't be precluded from getting television, and that people who don't have cable (perhaps for economic reasons) may not be able to afford the cost of buying a converter themselves. But if you already get cable, then you're not losing out on anything, save the right to have a TV on your kitchen counter, or in your basement. And if they really want to keep those TVs, there's nothing stopping them from buying a box themselves. As we've mentioned earlier, a big part of this issue is that politicians are loathe to do anything that might inconvenience their constituents; so even though everyone would benefit from a smooth spectrum transition, no politician wants to be responsible for messing with people's second (and third) TVs.
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