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Senate Delays Digital TV Transition; Will The Situation Be Any Different In June?

from the doubtful dept

It still makes little sense to us to delay the digital TV switchover beyond February 17th. The switch has already been delayed for nearly a decade, and anyone who doesn’t know about it yet isn’t likely to know about it when June roles around either. Yet, for political expediency, it looks like the Senate has approved plans to move the transition back to June (the House still needs to vote on this, but it seems likely to pass), which will end up slowing the rollout of various wireless services, thereby harming most consumers a lot more than this helps them. Hopefully, in June, politicians don’t roll over again and push back the date again.

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Comments on “Senate Delays Digital TV Transition; Will The Situation Be Any Different In June?”

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Twinrova says:

This isn't surprising news at all.

Once again, the United States government does something which goes against the public opinion and, instead, caters to the 1% who don’t even own a television.

Good thing many cable broadcasters are telling the government to shove it, as they’re switching regardless of the deadline.

Sadly, billions will be wasted with this delay which is not a good thing to do as many jobs just vanished when they’re desperately needed by people.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: This isn't surprising news at all.

Quote Twinrova;
“Good thing many cable broadcasters are telling the government to shove it, as they’re switching regardless of the deadline.”

What? That statement is nonsensical. The “cable broadcasters” don’t use public spectrum, they use wires to distribute their signal (and the satellite TV industry has been digital for years).
The DTV transition does NOT require cable companies to do anything.

However MANY of the cable companies are using the confusion caused by the transition to digital to fake (some call it defraud) their customers into more expensive “digital cable” plans.

Twinrova, have you been confused by comcast or do you work for them?

Anonymous Coward says:

Maybe it is because the Government screwed up with their coupon program. I know of someone that got coupons back in September, but didn’t try to redeem them until this month. She didn’t realize they had a 90 day expiration on them, and was turned away when trying to pick up the digital converter boxes.

I myself have cable, and if worse came to worst, I have an LCD TV with a built in HD tuner, so I could care less. However, I’ll bet most of those who got coupons, didn’t realize there was an expiration date on them. On top of that, how the heck can the Government not have the tracking ability to not know if a coupon that expired over a month ago, has not been used. Apparently, if you have been issued a coupon, and didn’t use it before the expiration, you’re out of luck, because the Government will not issue you another.

Rob says:

Re: Re:

I got one of the vouchers for an older TV and it says in huge print on the materials it comes with that you must you it within 90 days or it’ll be canceled and a replacement will not be issued. They even provide online retailers and brick and mortar stores where the vouchers are accepted for convenience sake.

Maybe they want to ensure that they don’t have millions of dollars in vouchers sitting around never being used. That might actually make sense.

DeathsPal (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I Have to agree the coupon program was a bust. Where I live (Semi urban area) all of the stores were out of boxes when I got my coupons…. I Was unable to buy one before they expired. I contacted the FCC office that handles the coupons and told them about it and they said they would resend some. Now I’m on a waiting list because they ran out of funds.

FCC=Failed Communication Commission….

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Maybe it is because the Government screwed up with their coupon program. I know of someone that got coupons back in September, but didn’t try to redeem them until this month. She didn’t realize they had a 90 day expiration on them, and was turned away when trying to pick up the digital converter boxes.

And that was a government screw-up!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Actually the government will release up to 2 coupons per household so even if they won’t replace an expired coupon, a household can get a second.

I’m iffy on this delay but the availability of converter boxes in my area has been almost zero until December 08 so I can see where some people have genuinely been unable to prepare properly. Me, I bought an indoor antenna because all this hype made me realize I didn’t need cable at all to get local channels because my TV is already digital. : )

Mr. Magoo says:

Re: Re:

@Anonymous Coward (4:56am)
How is it the government’s fault that your friend didn’t realize the coupons have a 90 day expiration on them? It’s displayed prominently on the front of the cards. Yes, it was dumb of the government to have these expire within 90 days, but it was irresponsible of your friend not to pay attention to the rules. Now the government is going to moddle-coddle her and others like her, causing more confusion and delays to something which should have been completed years ago.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Obamanation

Nah the percentage will drop slowly as older TV’s go out of service and are replaced. Of course I still have the set that my wife bought to watch the winter Olympics when she was in college in 1986 and that one still works fine.

The problem is that lots of areas are no longer served by the over the air signal when the switch really happens.

Haywood says:

The cost and confusion.

Countless companies have made decisions predicated on a date certain and now
the government is poised to muck it up.

* Many municipalities have contracted to switch over to new frequencies on
Feb 18th and de-activate their existing emergency transmitters. Workers are
poised to re-equip police cars, ambulances, and the like. Technicians have
been hired and trained to accomplish the change-over on a specific date.

* Other companies are ready to market services using the freed-up bands.
They won’t be able to do so for three months. The payments on their loans
for new equipment won’t be delayed, but their anticipated revenue will be

Bottom line: There is a significant cost to hundreds of companies and
governmental agencies. Some emergency services may even go off the air as
the people to whom a city sold their (supposedly redundant) equipment demand
access to THEIR equipment.

Suppose I borrowed $10 million to buy the city of Chicago’s police radios
and in turn sold them all to the government of Costa Rico. The contract with
Costa Rico specifies delivery by March 30th. I’ve contracted with technicans
to disassemble and pack the existing equipment by March 1st, deliver it to a
shipping company by March 3rd for transit on a ship that departs Chicago for
Costa Rico on March 5th. I’ve already paid the city of Chicago for the
equipment, paid salaries to the technicians, posted a deposit to the
shipping company, etc.

Now the government says: “Time out?”

I’m screwed.

Effective commerce cannot efficiently exist based on governmental whim.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The cost and confusion.

Um. Your example is fucking retarded. Costa Rica can use the same exact frequencies all they want. They probably do. This is an internal issue. I just really can’t believe how incredibly stupid your example is.

Oh, your point is valid and up until then you were good. But man! Choose a better example next time.

limaxray says:

Re: Re: The cost and confusion.

Umm, actually his example is a very real example of what is actually happening – he may actually been dealing with this very situation. A lot of wireless communication gear has been bought and sold because of this transition and delaying will hurt a large number of people. Most notably are public safety agencies who are getting large chunks of this freed up spectrum- large cities have sold off a lot of their old gear to smaller cities and other countries because they are rolling out new unified public safety wireless networks.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The cost and confusion.

Amen Amen and Amen.

What is more important, public safety or TV? The reconfiguration has been a massive effort (see http://www.800ta.org/ ) and now broadcasters are going to be allowed to continue to clog the new public safety spectrum?

On the public side, the Transition Administrator has been browbeating everyone to get this done. This switch is completely and utterly ridiculous.

DS78 says:


This shows the lack of balls that the government has. Regardless of party affiliation. Step up boys and make the switch. All the money we’ve spent. Awareness is somewhere above 90% now. If you’re not aware of the switch you probably don’t own a TV (ITS EVERYWHERE). The people who failed to act can spend their own money and get a converter box. LETS DO THIS ALREADY

Sergio says:

Don't wait

My area (RI) has been pretty progressive with the DTV swtich, in fact, CW went Digital only about a month ago. I’ve gone ahead and disabled all the analog stations on all my HDTVs since everything seems to be coming in at full power now. I hope all the other local stations here keep with the original February 17th date. They’ve been telling people for months that it’s February 17th and they should stick to that.

It will just confuse more people if they turn on their TV on the 18th and still see something. They may incorrectly interpret that as being DTV ready.

Matt T says:

Re: Re: It is about the Presidency

He’s saying that Barack Obama doesn’t want to be seen as someone who would “take away” (in this case get rid of their analog signal) television from the 4% of the population that didn’t prepare for this. The public opinion backlash would keep him from making a move like this in the first weeks in office. He’s not actually taking anything away, but people would look at it like that.

Only one thing. . . says:

This is about. . .

Democrats gaining/holding on to the votes of low income/education families. If the Dems say, “Go ahead with the transition” and their constituents lose the capability to watch television then a) they will complain about their democrat representative and b) they will not have any way to preach to them about Obama’s greatness/spin how he’s raping their liberties into a positive thing.

ted says:

Re: This is about. . .

I understand why people who view everything in a partisan way want to make this a partisan action, but it isn’t a Democratic push – the delay passed _unanimously_ in the Senate (that’s right, all the Republicans voted for it too…)

For the record, I disagree vehemently with the delay, but I think it is happening because _all_ politicians are afraid of offending voters.

Dave says:

More time to stop this travesty

Pushing back the date gives us more time to orgainize and file a lawsuit to stop this attack on the general public. The real reason they are pushing for this is because they want to be able to DRM all broadcasts. The FCC is complacent because they see the opportunity to make big money selling the freed spectrum.

limaxray says:

Re: More time to stop this travesty

No, the real reason for it is it frees up huge amounts of wasted spectrum so:

a) wireless carriers can roll out the next generation of wireless services
b) fire, ambulance, and police at the municipal, state and federal levels can all actually communicate with each other using a national public safety wireless network

Joe (profile) says:

anyone who doesn't know about this isn't watching broadcast tv

The real issue in my opinion is cable providers ads trying to get non-cable subscribers to subscribe due to the digital transition. Anyone who hasnt’ seen ads or read about this is living in a bubble and not watching tv.

I say push on and when their tv’s don’t work and they call their manufacturer/store asking about their product make sure those people are informed so they can explain what happened in lamens terms.

Lawrence says:

Delaying is stupid

There are several reason people haven’t gone out to buy converters.

1. With the Downturn in economy and even with a coupon, people won’t easily spend to buy the converter unless absolutely necessary.
2. Quite a few people have cable boxes, or wired cable so there is no need for the converter box.
3. In some areas where maybe you could use converter box, you probably get a total of 3 digital channels right now or some digital stations are a “flea” power, meaning they have digital broadcast, but it only ranges like 15 miles.
4. What the gov’t should do, but can’t do, is make digital stations broadcast at a decent wattage so consumers will get a multitude of stations instead of like 3. But that’s more a result of stations not wanting to upgrade digital broadcasts because the OTA broadcasts are probably a small percentage of people in comparison to cable.

Anonymous Coward says:

I support transition to digital for many of the reasons expressed here and on technical sites discussing the pros and cons of digital versus analog. Unfortunatley, I have noted a downside to some digital signals. Analog signals that I previously was able to pick up from local stations do not get through when in digital form. From my experience this is one area that needs further refinement.

Otherwise, I have found that the digital signals I do pick up are superior in quality on the screen than is the case with many analog signals.

Joel (profile) says:


AT&T and Verizon are the major companies who came out of the 700 mhz auction with a chunk of the spectrum and they are on board with this digital TV delay. They are on board not because people can’t get the vouchers from the government but because it makes no business sense to build, test and operate a new network in a recession when the majority of people will not be paying the premium price that the new 4G network will cost when it rolls out. Instead they opted to “look” like they were helping the average American get an extra $40 bucks while at the same time delaying the expense of building the infrastructure of a new network.

Additionally, the $6 billion for broadband that is in the new stimulus is for “open” networks, the sort that Verizon is trying now where the “approved” devices are mostly broadband data cards. When every major provider in the US is offering LTE as the network then “open” won’t mean anything anymore and the providers get to walk away with $6 billion that they wouldn’t have, except of course Sprint who is sinking faster than a rock in water.

JMB says:

Once again, we baby folks. If you didn’t know there was a switch to DTV happening then you are either dead or living on an island somewhere where you could probably care less about TV (I know I would!!!). Cut the friggin’ umbilical and get on with it. There may be 6 million that aren’t ready now but do you really think that number will be reduced by June…..No. The same lazy people who have put it off until know are grateful they can put it off until June and then they’ll whine and cry they aren’t ready in June.

Forget about ’em…..move on. They’ll eventually catch up. If they don’t, then we’ve started culling the herd.

Johnny Canada says:

Re: I wondered about this...

Middle of ReRuns

Reruns start the week of your Thanksgiving, for two to three weeks, then again the last week of December to mid January, then again just after Sweeps, and again in April for another two weeks. Then summer until mid October.

I do not know when they have time to show first run TV shows 🙂

BK (user link) says:

7 million are not yet ready for Digital TV?

They say that delay in switching to digital TV is warranted since 10% of American people are not ready??? May be Mr. Obama should delay becoming a President of this nation for another 4 years since some 27% of Americans are not ready to say good-bye to Bush? I was hoping for evidence of some intelligence, at least at the start of his term!!! Too much to hope for?

Silverwolf (user link) says:

No One Seems to have noticed

No one seems to have noticed the “fine print” of the bill which says that the TV Broadcasters are free to switch early if they want to.

Really this bill does next to nothing to extend the cut-off date unless the broadcasters just want to continue in analog (which it’s my understanding most of them do not).

The only good point of this bill is that households with expired cupons can re-apply for new ones (they could not before)

John says:

So much for broadband for everyone...

This pushes back the open whitespace thing right? Doesn’t that whitespace have the potential for wide area wireless network/internet access? Couldn’t this whitespace help the “broadband for everyone” idea Obama was pushing?

So, why is my local paper claiming that pushing back DTV is a win for Obama? Wouldn’t this would hurt his “broadband for everyone” idea.

(disclaimer, I may be totally incorrect on whitespace potential. If I am, I’m wrong. So, don’t throw a fit.)

MDMHM says:

Remember Seniors & Not all areas getting digital signal

Tried to help my 80 yr old grandparents get ready. Got coupon & bought box, hooked up & only able to get PBS, all other channels lost. Store recommended new wire to antenna, no help. Store recommended new HDTV antenna, no help.

All channels but PBS constant pixelate so unwatchable. Out $200 & a day’s time. 80 yr old people don’t care about high-def. They just want basic TV. They get all the major networks with analog. They will be forced to a cheap cable package or watch PBS only. They said they will stop watching TV in Feb before signing any cable contracts.

Our generation wants clearer pictures & surrond sound. Their generation is concerned with saving money for food, medical, & utilities. Please remember the older generation of Americans that will be left without TV programming. Doesn’t sound like much, but when you are unable to drive & seperated from the news of the world, you become isolated & depressed.

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