WiMAX On The Way! Just Wait Until 2010

A recent story off the AP wire discusses the USA shift from analog to digital TV, which we’ve discussed often at Techdirt. The news is that the Senate has approved a slightly more lenient timeline with more money allocated to giving consumers free digital-analog converters. But an important part of the story is the use of the spectrum freed up by the move to digital. While “the sooner the better” applies to the re-deployment of broadcast TV spectrum, it seems like we’re stuck with April, 2009 as the date currently penciled in the calendar. The article mentions how this spectrum is highly anticipated by first responders who want new radio networks, but we know the spectrum is also desirable for new Wireless Broadband solutions like WiMAX, Flarion, and UMTS TDD. However, the late transition date means that we’re unlikely to see any real wireless broadband solutions in TV spectrum until 2010 or 2011. We’re likely to have a bunch of mobile high-speed solutions entrenched by then, but the access to the superior frequencies will invigorate competition for fixed broadband access. It hasn’t escaped us here at Techdirt that the late transition date not only helps the large Media/TV broadcasters, but it also helps the incumbent Cable/DSL providers delay the inevitable competition from sub-700MHz wireless broadband ISPs. We would have preferred an earlier transition. How do I feel about the government paying for people’s TV hardware, click read more for a rant.

Why does the government have to pay for individual homes' digital to analog converters, anyway? The senate just allocated $3Billion to this issue, even though it only applies to people who pick their TV signals off the air (OTA, not cable or satellite). These are people who have chosen NOT to spend their own money on digital TVs nor cable, nor satellite. They have voted with their wallets that TV is not that important to them. (Sure, some may be poor, but is TV an essential service that must be provided to the poor?) They would get about $60 for each TV to buy a converter. But under 20% of Americans get their signals OTA - and they are already saving $40-100 by not paying for entertainment, like the cable customers are. Meanwhile, in the UK, citizens PAY a tax of about 126 pounds (US$225) a year for every TV in the house, including PC receiver cards! This is Law. The funds are used to support public TV. So, in the UK there is a law that requires per-TV taxes to fund good, intelligent programming, while in the US there is now a law to buy equipment for people's TVs, as funding for public TV erodes. Brilliant. What's the deal? Has TV become a Right in the US, and the government must buy everyone a TV converter so they can still watch Jerry Springer? Didn't see that amendment to the constitution. How did access to mind-numbing tripe become a national imperative for which treasury dollars must be spent? And if anyone thinks I'm being unduly hard on the poor here (because let's face it, that's largely the affected segment), I'm not. I'd be happy to hear that the $3B allocated to free TV upgrades was instead diverted to urban housing, educational reform, social security, or medicare, etc.

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