Congress Delays Digital TV Transition: Everyone Loses!

from the good-job,-Congress dept

We were a bit surprised when the House rejected a plan unanimously approved by the Senate to delay the transition from analog to digital over the air TV broadcasting from February to June of this year. However, we knew it couldn’t last. A little horse-trading and favor-promising and the new bill has won approval from both parts of Congress with Obama expected to sign it (wonder if he’ll wait five days for comments?). The end result is that pretty much everyone loses — other than some grandstanding politicians and the 12 or so people who haven’t upgraded and who will upgrade between now and June. Everyone else — including the folks who still won’t be ready when June rolls around lost out here. It will slow down a variety of other important wireless offerings and increase confusion in a market where the February cut-off date was drilled into the minds of millions.

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Comments on “Congress Delays Digital TV Transition: Everyone Loses!”

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ToySouljah says:

Re: Why

I read that there were 13 million coupons that people were holding that are now expired. Does anyone know how long the coupons were good for? I ask since if you had to request a coupon…why would you not use it?
Also, why would the expiration date be before 02/17/2009? This is just more resources wasted in congress prolonging this issue. Like everyone has been saying…those that are not ready now (after how many years of be told?) will not be ready in 4 months either. So are we going to keep sending this issue to congress to have it prolonged until “everyone” is ready? Sometimes you have to light a fire under peoples @$$e$ to get them to move. This is one of those cases…cut off their signal, and if they really want it back they will take action to correct their problem.

stfu says:

Typical asshole view of the problem

Have you considered that it’s mainly the poor and underprivileged that haven’t upgraded, because for them it’s a choice between eating and watching TV? Perhaps you should step outside of your protected little universe of iposers and ewankers and saw what the real world is really like.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Typical asshole view of the problem

Have you considered that it’s mainly the poor and underprivileged that haven’t upgraded, because for them it’s a choice between eating and watching TV? Perhaps you should step outside of your protected little universe of iposers and ewankers and saw what the real world is really like.

Funny. You accuse us of being “assholes” yet the only one throwing around insults and vulgar language appears to be (oh look!) you.

Anyway, you’re wrong. First off, if they’re in a position where they’re choosing between eating or watching TV (and I’m curious to find someone who *actually* has to make that choice) how is the situation going to be any different in three four months?

Yes, some people are poor. They will still be poor in 4 months. Why should the rest of the world not be able to make use of PUBLIC RESOURCES because there are a few poor people? That makes no sense.

It’s not an “asshole view” of the problem, it’s a realistic view of the problem. Is waiting four months going to change the situation of the folks you’re discussing?

David says:

Re: Typical asshole view of the problem

You sound like it is a God given right to watch TV. If your too poor to put food on the table, then you shouldn’t be waisting your electric bill money on a TV. Go to the neighbors and watch theirs if it is that important. I know a lot of poor people who still understand that there are more important things in our lives than TV. Step outside your little world.

Dave Barnes says:

Very Bad and somewhat good

Very Bad.
It will cost TV stations a bundle in electricity.
It will delay improve communications overall.
It will screw many entrepreneurs who had arranged for the transfer of “obsolete” equipment to new venues.

Somewhat good.
My wife’s laundry room TV will work for another 3 months and I can avoid the converter versus new TV for that length of time.

Michael says:


They can transmit both digital and analog. Television used to be free for everyone, all you needed was a TV set. Now that we live in corporate controlled America, they have found another way to make money off the populace. Notice mainly the Republicans are pushing for digital. When Cable first came out, they pushed it by saying no commercials. Most people have forgotten this! With the digital, what about the prospect of them watching you, while you watch them. CRAZY, but think about the possibilities. We just keep losing our rights as citizens!!!!!!!!!!!

Oliver Wendell Jones (profile) says:


They can transmit both digital and analog.

Not necessarily.

a) You can’t broadcast both on the same antenna and unless your TV station happens to be very well funded, it’s unlikely that they have two antennas big enough to broadcast both signals at the same time.

b) It takes electricity – and a lot of it – to broadcast a powerful TV signal – to broadcast both would require significantly more electricity and most stations simply can’t afford that.

c) There is overlap between the analog and digital signals – they picked one date and said “everyone will switch on this date at this time” so that there would be no overlap – all the analog transmitters shut down and minutes later all the digital transmitters come online. There would be interference or cross-signal contamination. If they allow stations to turn off analog as they please and go digital, then they run the risk of interference – also many stations are changing their channel # which would be a source of great confusion if the channel # they are to move to is still in use by another station’s analog system.

I know this because I work for a Midwest TV station and we’ve been looking forward to this and dreading it at the same time. We’re going from a 2.09 MW analog transmitter to dual 9 KW digital transmitters as that’s what the corporate offices decided would provide equivalent power output. In reality, when we switch over, we expect to lose about 40% of our existing viewers – these are viewers outside of our DMA (Designated Market Area) that happen to tune us in because we’re the only FOX affiliate in the area, and once we are forced to go digital I anticipate at least 5,000 calls from very upset people – we expect to lose as much 10,000 households – probably more. I’ve already told my boss, whatever the cut off date is, I’m calling in sick the next day. My specific job doesn’t require me to be there for the transition, and I’m going to try and avoid helping to answer those 5,000 angry calls.

Oliver Wendell Jones (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: DTV

No, not a typo – our current transmitter covers our entire DMA plus at least one or two additional counties in each direction. The new dual 9 KW transmitters will just barely cover our DMA, so our total coverage area is dropping drastically – much more than most other stations – but yes, there is a huge savings by going to digital over analog (just look how much longer your cellphone battery lasts in an all digital coverage area vs. analog-only – if you can still find such an area).

I just want to know what we lose by waiting?

What we as a station lose is 40% of our viewers (or more) – what we as viewers lose is the ability to accept poor reception – if you want to watch a show bad enough, you’ll put up with some snow and static – with digital you won’t have that option – you either get it clearly or not at all. This means that many viewers will need new antennas, and not just fancier rabbit ears – most of them will need a roof mount (or at least attic mount) antenna – by delaying til June we give the snow and ice a chance to melt and let them climb up there in relative safety.

Jeffry Houser (profile) says:

Atenna on the Roof

I actually don’t mind the extra time to get an antenna on my roof. It’ll be hard to find someone to install one with the weather this bad [and I’ve been putting it off for quite a while]. While the bunny ears on my TV work; I think a higher / bigger antenna will give me much stronger signal and better reception.

I had two coupons. But they expired before I got to use them; so I ended up shredding them. At some point I bought a new TV making the digital converter box a moot point.

One of the local channels I do get switched from 1 digital channel to 4 digital channels today.

Andrew K. (user link) says:

Got to love those Democrats!

The house republicans all voted against it. Its pretty bad when Cnn takes the stand w/ the republicans and states:

The delay was opposed by Republicans who said the government has already given people years to prepare for the switch to digital TV.

“If you don’t know this date is coming up, you’re probably not watching television,” said Rep. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican. “And if you’re not watching television, you probably won’t know on February 18 whether it occurred or not.”

Zim (profile) says:

DTV & The poor

re: DTV – When my TV comes with a transmitter that sends a signal back to the overlords, I’ll worry about them watching what I watch. And if you think the signal spectrum is crowded now, let’s put a few hundred million more transmitters on the air. Anyway, I was with you til you got silly.

re: Choosing TV or food. By the time food becomes that critical, TV isn’t even a part of the picture. Been there. I know if I was ever again *really* hungry, my 42″ Digital Ready flat screen will be on Craig’s list before you could say ‘PBS’

Arthur Dent says:

Re: DTV & The poor

“When my TV comes with a transmitter that sends a signal back to the overlords, I’ll worry”

Although you have a point re OTA transmission, there are plenty of STBs which include the capability to connect to the internet via your ISP … what do you think they have in mind ?
Couple this with the news about flat panel displays with integrated cameras or Comcast R&D playing with webcam integrated in the STB
Hate to break it to ya, but you have reason to worry.
Just remember, dont panic

mack jehoff says:

Re: Re: DTV & The poor

“Couple this with the news about flat panel displays with integrated cameras or Comcast R&D playing with webcam integrated in the STB
Hate to break it to ya, but you have reason to worry.”

Why worry when this can be prevented with a simple piece of black tape placed over the lens..

Sista says:

Re: DTV & The poor

While one can only help but appreciate the individuals concern for the poor and underprivileged, I have to agree with Zim on this one. When it comes to making sure my daughter eats, the tv has got to go anyway (to the pawn shop or to whoever will buy it). I’ve been there too and when you are there, entertainment is the last thing on your mind. Prioritizing is the first.

TJ says:


Why not mention this aspect of the bill, “The bill allows television stations to switch from analog to digital signals before the June 12 deadline if they are ready to do so.” So a TV station can still switch in February if they wish. That gives an interesting way to motivate stragglers: Switch to digital during American Idol, 60 minutes, and a few other key shows to get each demographics’ attention. 😉

What I’m curious about is why they didn’t use the same bill to put more funds into the coupon program, since it running out of money was the supposed reason for the delay.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Why worry when this can be prevented with a simple piece of black tape placed over the lens.”

Yes, but these flatpanel displays have the camera sensors hidden in amongst all the display pixels. It is hard to find them and then you cover up the stuff you want to see.

The good news – the is always a way around their feeble attempts

Dan says:

Dead wrong! We all lost, ten years ago, when our legislators stole our analog bandwidth and promised us an equitable replacement. Surprise, they lied again and we got screwed again. Who won? Everyone but the public. The politicians got greased, the electronics companies sold millions of TVs the cable millions of new customers, the TV stations got more channels for billions of commercials and the mobile vendors got our old bandwidth so some idiot can play WOW on his phone while driving home from work. The public got the grand opportunity to buy new TV sets or converter boxes which now need roof mounted antennas because the signal is to weak and the frequency is to high to penetrate even minor ground obstructions. So now I get some of the channels, even though the picture freezes for seconds at a time, or periods of pixelation, but who cares if you missed tomorrows weather or not. Now please tell again what a wonderful technology DTV is. The politicians that committed this crime are technological amoeba and will feel my wrath at the next election.

Twinrova says:

You all sound surprised.

Months ago, when it was first announced, I expected the delay to pass.

To bad the rest of the world kept being optimistic when history shows that’s rarely the case.

Now, we get to watch as even more businesses tied to the spectrum close their doors and send employees home for the last time.

Welcome to the United States of America, where government no longer represents the people who put them office to begin with.©

alterntives() says:

Have not 'upgraded'

And I’m not going to ‘upgrade’ either.

I’ll just go without. If the sales people who want to sell me their wares want to contact me, they’ll have to find some other way or send me a converter. (Oh no! I won’t know what Ross is doing to Joey this week – or whatever is going to be the water cooler interactions)

My parents will have to learn to like one station (instead of the 3 they now get) or get something like Direct TV/learn to use the internet to DL shows. For them, it’ll be just the the 1970’s all over again. Cept they’ll be old and broke VS young and broke.

Anonymous12 says:

What I’m curious about is why they didn’t use the same bill to put more funds into the coupon program, since it running out of money was the supposed reason for the delay.

FYI-The funds were moved by Obama into the “stimulus” package. This way, he is using it as a political stick
to get the stimulus package passed. If enough people get upset, it is yet ONE MORE issue to move the stimulus package along. Nothing like exploiting people to get a bill passed right? Gotta love it….

Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) says:

First lawsuit?

My question is when a station decides to switch anyway in February, or early for that matter, who is the first person willing to sue the station? That will make a nice spectacle. If the date was set in stone, there would be no argument. If the date is ambiguous then someone somewhere will believe it is their right to get a signal. Believe me, there will be lawyers willing to take this case.

NadaGeek says:

Name one

hi , my name is Dan . I am one .
i pay for cable on my pc (for now) because is is more informative .
cant afford it for the tv . i work in auto parts and have for 10 years , i’m the non IT default tech guy our location calls to fix everything . i will probably lose my job soon . i cant afford a box . and last summer it looked like i might be able to afford cable again so i didn’t get one early . oh , who is benefiting most from the newly empty spectrum>? emergency services? couldnt we have made those radios work about 10 years ago?

Freeper (user link) says:

Re: Name one

Who cares about you? You’re poor, so shut up. You know what? You’re poor for a reason. It’s because you’re worthless, or you wouldn’t be poor. I’m with Mike on this one, poor people don’t count and delaying the changeover for them just doesn’t make sense, at least from a capitalistic, free market view. Of course, I’m sure the bleeding heart socialist libbercrats will all disagree.

Robby B (profile) says:

re. Congress delays TV conversion - Everybody loses

Watching TV is not a God-given right — but use of the airwaves is a Public Domain. Governments have the responsibility to protect Public rights to use it — just like seashores, parks, etc.

When radio wave signals were first broadcast, they were experimental. As their use became widespread, laws and rules were developed to secure use, with minimum cross-interference, of many uses and users. This included assigning certain spectrums to particular uses.

Broadcast AM and FM radio, and TV were assigned selected spectrums. They became popular resources, available free to the Public, sponsored variously by advertisement contributions, as well as by government bodies in support of the Public’s interests.

In the ’60s, color TV became available.
Viewers did not have to buy color TVs.
They could still watch the same programs in black and white.
Initially, color images were not as sharp as the BW ones.

Competitive market forces supported technical improvements and enriched (or sometimes just broadened) the broadcasts.
The prices went down in the basic markets. Luxury market price ranges grew as well, providing a strong basis for further improvement — much of which, driven by market forces, enhanced the quality of the media in general.

—- Everybody won!! Despite inherent risks, freedom won.
{ Some advocates of back-to-nature and restrictive religious issues, were finding greater competition.
But, even for them, it was a issue of choice. }

In the past few decades, the paradigm of public power changed. — The government became more responsible for safeguarding the interests and liberties of the wealthy, especially in regard to their prey, the Public.

It seems to have had a curious, Through-the-Looking-Glass, result: Even before the Middle-Class and Poor had been completely foxed out of their resources, the wealthy were preying on each other. As the most wealthy increased their share of the national wealth, there were fewer of them — their former peers having lost their wealth, becoming persona non-gratis.

The rape of the Public interest in the RW spectrum has followed the latter paradigm: The Public was not protected or defended when wealthy interests wanted big bites of the broadcast spectrums.

With just a few years notice, without a break-in period for public acclamation and acceptance, without even options for already-licensed broadcasters, the U.S. Government took away a valuable, widely-used resource — that had been available for free use — for most of most lifetimes.

As a sop to those who wanted what they had, the Government ungraciously provided for a limited number of coupons, effective over limited time periods — not even administering that program effectively.

The coupons, many of which were not provided until after they had expired, give $40 discounts for purchase of up to two converter boxes per home. — Discounts for devices that supposedly would make up for deprivation (I would call it theft by corrupt legislation and fiat), that did not even cover the full cost of even the most modest of the devices.

But that is not all!!
This conversion does not only harm the poor.

If the converter boxes were FREE and FULL-FEATURED replacements or adaptations for lost functionality, including programmable-scheduling for tuner channel changes (as well as GREEN features such as programmable ON/OFF times), then they might be worth the bother that the Conversion is causing.

Popular on-the-market technologies such as VCRs and DVRs, used to time-shift or collect broadcast programs [legally, for personal use], are no longer effective for common uses.

Converter boxes that I’ve seen in stores only have limited-function tuners. They cannot be triggered by programming scheduled in the recorders. Nor do they even have schedule-programming features that MIGHT be synchronized with the recorders.

In other words, you can only change your channel in person. If recording for subsequent viewing — while away at work, at some evening activity, or on vacation — you will only be able to record from a single channel.
Even if you are home, you will not be able to program your DVR to tune to and record while you are watching another broadcast item.

No it is not a God-given right.
It is a Public Right regarding a valuable Common Resource, like the seas, the wilderness, the air.

It is the responsibility of Governments to protect those rights of the Public — i.e. Government by the People, of the People, and for the People.

Even though literacy no longer seems to be valued — judging by often sloppy, sometimes incomprehensible comments here and in other blogs — you might have heard of that concept. Those words were spoken by Abe Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address.

Another concept, elaborated in the U.S. Declaration of Independence, designed into the U.S. Constitution and its Ammendments: it is the responsibility of the People, the Public, to hold that Government to that.

David says:

Re: re. Congress delays TV conversion - Everybody loses

I wonder if Lincoln would really have felt that the government was responsible to protect the airwaves. He had real issues that affected mankind which he addressed (given your knowledge of Lincoln, I’m sure I don’t have to explain that to you).

The airwaves are still free if you have the equipment to receive them, just like before.

Improvements in technology come at a cost to us all. When my computer is no longer capable of performing due to advances, I don’t go whining to the government to give me a new one or a device to make it work.

Youtube forever! says:

Poor people are not the target audience for DTV.

This delay is pretty much a big win by corporate broadcasters that own their own antennas and haven’t yet sold them from their top market stations.

They will have an edge against those broadcasters who had let their lease expire or have committed their analog systems to be sold after Feb 17th. Equipment lenders will probably not lease their equipment for just 4 months at the price off a longer contract. So some stations would have to bear the DTV delay without the analog transmitter, but they might not survive it. Advertisers would spend their money on stations that are sill using analog/digital combo transmitter setups, not on stations that are only doing digital. That would effectively plow such stations under.

Basically, these network corporates have been handed DTV on a platter.

Those in fringe areas where cable or satellite won’t reach them, would be forced to urbanize their untainted utopias if they wanted television.

jose says:

they shouldn’t think of the folks but in the people who are already ready and been waiting years for this, we should wait on the folks, if they didn’t purchase a box they will when they can’t see the TV!!

i know there isn’t anything to complain about because we still can see the TV but have us waiting this much it too much! more than a year was enough to get ready.

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