What Would Pushing Back The Digital TV Transition Mean?

from the on-hold dept

As the deadline for the shutdown of analog TV broadcasts and the transition to digital draws closer, calls for a delay in the switchover grow louder, thanks largely to poor management of the converter subsidy program and inadequate education. But while consumer groups and politicians fret over the few million people who will need converters but haven't gotten them, Kevin Fitchard over at Telephony Online has a nice roundup of the wireless and mobile companies that will feel the effects of any delay in the transition.

The reason for the digital switchover is to free up the 700MHz spectrum that's used by analog broadcasts. The spectrum's low frequency gives it great propagation characteristics for mobile broadband, while the sheer quantity of it the TV broadcasts occupy translates into a lot of capacity for next-generation mobile networks. Also, keep in mind that the government has already auctioned off the licenses to this spectrum, so companies like Qualcomm and Verizon Wireless, which have already shelled out billions of dollars to set up shop in it, will have to push back their investments and rollouts. This could have a carry-on effect on consumers. For instance, Cox Communications bought 700MHz licenses in many of the markets in which it offers cable TV service with the intention of setting up its own mobile networks, introducing new competition for incumbents. One other group that stands to lose out if the transition is delayed: public safety agencies, which were allocated 700MHz spectrum in order to build interoperable, unified communications systems. This transition has been pushed back for years; it's important now that the hard deadline stands, and that the vast amount of spectrum used by the analog broadcasts -- broadcasts that relatively few people rely on -- can be refarmed and put to a more valuable use.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Meoip, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 3:09pm

    Bail out

    I'm sure if it get's pushed back Verizon will come looking for a bailout.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Luke, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 3:16pm

    Misplaced Comma?

    As the deadline for the shutdown of analog TV broadcasts and the transition to digital, draws closer

    Do you really need that comma?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    Steve (profile), Jan 13th, 2009 @ 3:18pm

    Re: Bail out

    Absolutely, as will ALL of the new owners of the spectrum.. ANd why not? The government continues to think it can charge fees and taxes, and then change the rules in the middle of the game at it's whim. If there's anything that screws up a free market, it's this kind of crap.

    Sorry, but I'm TIRED of seeing those "Just 30 more days" commercials, and personally, I dont care if my local NBC affiliate loses some ratings because of a couple backwoods grandmas haven't asked their kids what it all means. Personally, I think this whole thing will be a non-issue, and they're overreacting.

    Continue as planned. Full speed ahead!


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Reid, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 3:30pm

    Re: Misplaced Comma?

    Grammar police are not welcome here.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Reid, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 3:30pm

    Re: Misplaced Comma?

    Grammar police are not welcome here.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Haywood, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 3:50pm

    What it means

    What it means is we really have endorsed a policy of catering to the lowest common denominator. Makes no difference to me though, I'm getting great digital signals in what is considered a fringe area, better than the analog ever was. The part I don't understand, is folks balking at a one time charge to upgrade their antenna, wires and such. I probably spent $400 between antenna, wires, amp, and rotor. that was spread over 10 years & all spent trying to get a decent analog signal. Cheap compared to cable or satellite charges, and cable isn't offered, it ends 1/2 mile away, & they have no plans to extend. Now I don't care. For less than the price of 6 months of service I have great TV.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Guy One, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 3:51pm

    "...and inadequate education."

    What? Every time i watch tv i see something about the DTV switch... i guess if you have not seen the Public Service Announcements, you dont watch enough tv and/or you use other methods for getting information...(The Interwebs)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    WV Zoomy, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 4:02pm

    Just do it

    Do the change and anyone who can't get a signal will get the equipment they need.
    Extend the deadline and those who don't have the equipment right now, won't have the equipment then either.
    They will continue to procrastinate until they are forced to do something.
    The lowest denominator indeed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 4:13pm

    Who owns the radio spectrum?

    The new owners of the spectrum?
    I thought that the "airwaves" belonged to the public, like the Mississippi river or the ocean or the airspace aircraft fly in. The government regulates it "for the public good" and has found a way to auction off licenses to that spectrum but the likes of Cox and Verizon do not own it now.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 5:11pm

    Re: Who owns the radio spectrum?

    I think the non public licensees should pay an annual fee to rent the spectrum they lease.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    cheese McBeese, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 5:17pm

    Re: Just do it

    Exactly. If we wait for the Hatfields and McCoys to get off the porch and do something, we'll be waiting a long time. I'm sure the people who haven't acted yet still drive around in cars littered with 8-track tapes all over the dashboard.

    In light of the real problems this country is facing, this is an easy problem to solve. Fire the people who are in charge of managing this silliness and get an action-oriented team to deal with it. This is NOT a difficult problem to solve.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Ken, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 5:46pm

    Inadequate Education?


    If you don't know about this, you don't watch TV. Therefore, the switch doesn't matter to you.

    The MISTAKE was handing out free converters to the "poor". If you can't save up $40 over the last 3 years, you have bigger problems than not getting TV.

    Make a plan, educate everyone on the plan and DO IT. If you took the whole "handout" program running out of money, then then I'd say everything has gone smoothly.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Roman, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 5:51pm

    Down with television

    It's nice how nobody can do much of anything without paying for it.
    yay America!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Your Gawd and Master, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 5:54pm


    If one of those "backwoods grandmas" happens to be your own grandmother who dies because she gets no DTV reception at all where she is and a tornado or flood hits....will you please repeat this so I can laugh in your face?

    Regardless, not ALL of the analog stations will be going away, you DTV lemmings just keep repeating it as though it is the truth. There are exceptions for several different types of stations that won't be required to convert to digital-only, including people who live in mountainous regions where line-of-sight to the transmitter is impossible, and this has been known since before they auctioned off that part of the spectrum.

    So, in actuality, delaying the transition would mean absolutely NOTHING to anyone.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 6:01pm

    Re: Inadequate Education?

    The "converter boxes for the poor" is about as silly as you can get. Anybody who is too destitute to pay $40 for a converter box needs to be spending their time working or sleeping instead of watching Oprah.

    On the other hand, I would already have a $40 converter box for the TV I watch out in the garage, except that I'm waiting for my coupon to come in. Why pay for it if Uncle Chump will give it to me for free?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Joel Coehoorn, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 6:17pm


    delaying the transition is also unfair to all those who went out and spent money to acquire a convert box or new tv in preparation.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 6:25pm

    I'd like to know

    How do they know how many people have not obtained their converter box ?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Steven, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 6:30pm

    Re: Inadequate Education?

    I agree. I think I can go over the whole commercial in my head. I've seen that ad so many times it's not even funny any more. And totaly, if you can't afford a tv converter (I only paid 20$ for mine!) There isn't anything else that the govie can do. If people are to lazy to get off the couch to buy one, this will make them get off the couch. If not, to freakin bad for them. They just need to learn some responsibility.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    jaf, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 6:36pm

    Re: Re: Misplaced Comma?

    shouldn't that be grammar police ain't welcome?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    me again, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 6:37pm

    Re: What it means

    and three whole stations!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    "Gawd and Master" is an idiot, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 6:38pm

    If you need a TV or Radio to see that the weather is bad then you deserve to die, yes even my own grandmother. That is such a lame excuse to promote the idea of yet another delay in the analog to digital transition.

    Your DTV lemmings comment is also pointless, well maybe not..I could say "all you analog tv lemmings need to get off your ass and get a converter or a new tv. I mean we have been told about this transition since 1996. What rock are YOU hiding under."

    Morons, plain and simple.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Haywood, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 8:43pm

    Re: Re: What it means

    Maybe where you live, but my area is littered with them. Even kicking out the Spanish and religious stations leaves a lot to be watched, and most of my viewing is sourced at my HTPC anyhow.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. icon
    Mike (profile), Jan 13th, 2009 @ 11:33pm

    Re: Re: Misplaced Comma?

    Grammar police are not welcome here.

    Actually, they're always welcome. Fixed the post too.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2009 @ 6:18am

    Re: pfftt..

    It would absolutely affect in many different ways. There are BILLIONS invested. They have only been warning people for years now.
    They might not have access to DTV signals but everyone has complete access to satellite signals. The problem is the advertisements are very confusing to older, non-technical people a lot of the advertisements in my area make it sound like you have to buy a new TV to watch TV.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Hoeppner, Jan 14th, 2009 @ 7:46am

    Comma's are a pain... Even college teachers don't teach people how to use them 'right'.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. icon
    TX CHL Instructor (profile), Jan 14th, 2009 @ 8:21am

    This is a Big Deal exactly why?

    I discontinued my cable service and unplugged my remaining TV over a year ago, and have not watched commercial TV since then. Among other positive changes I've noticed since then, my blood pressure has gone down, and I sleep better.

    All this brouhaha over the HD switchover starts with the erroneous assumption that it is important. The Electronic Wasteland has not had enough good content to justify its existence in several years now, and HD isn't going to change that.
    www.chl-tx.com --Thanks to the Chicago Politician with the Blank Resume, my business is booming.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. identicon
    bjohnson, Jan 14th, 2009 @ 9:45am

    I can wait now

    I was going to buy my converter box next week but I quess I will wait and see what happens. No point in spending the money if they are going to push the deadline back.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. identicon
    Jeff Rife, Jan 14th, 2009 @ 12:10pm

    TV stations will have extra expenses, too

    All the TV stations have scheduled the changeover, and this often involves co-operation between many nearby stations and other companies (like those that manufacturer transmitters).

    Dumping the schedule and causing all of planned overtime and consulting costs to be moved might make it impossible for some TV stations to make the new schedule.

    In addition, there are extra fees that will occur because stations didn't plan on keeping both transmitters running for an extra 3/6/12/whatever months. Licensing is one of the major issues, as many stations will have to get special FCC dispensation to continue the analog transmission. It's not like the FCC would fine them or anything during the interim, but with an unknown delay, the stations have to plan this as if there will never be a transition.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. identicon
    John, Jan 14th, 2009 @ 12:22pm

    Two points

    Sorry, but I'm TIRED of seeing those "Just 30 more days" commercials,
    I was tired of seeing the "only six months left" commercials last July, as if the world was ending right then and there.

    But the bigger point is: Welcome to America, the land where we try to offend no-one. If the THREE people can't save $40 to their converter, then we can't inconvenience them! Push back the transition date!

    If those three people can't understand English, form a government committee to get forms printed in their language, no matter the cost! We can't have these people upset with us! Get those forms printed in their Outer Mongolian Cantonese dialect so they know they'll lose over-the-air American Idol in February!

    I'm exaggerating of course, but why would the government push back the transition date because it might inconvenience some TV watchers when delaying the transition date would inconvenience corporations who have spent millions (or billions) getting ready for it? And if the transition is delayed now, when will it actually happen? Or will it keep getting pushed back as the over-the-air TV watchers still "haven't gotten around" to getting a converter? Are these few people really worth more than the future telecommunications infrastructure?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30. identicon
    Julie, Jan 14th, 2009 @ 6:21pm

    Urging a delay of shutting off analog

    We are in a time of crises financially which is incredibly stressful. Many are out of work etc, (like myself),while dealing with challenges. I'm outraged that one would think that a growing technology nation should take place instead of really thinking how the Digital switch could add more stress to some people. We're not a deprived society and I'm tired of the greediness of consumers. I have a TV that is Digital ready but my VCR isn't. Yes I still tape with a VCR and although I'm looking forward to a DVD player finally and possibly a combo,at some point, I'm appreciative of what I have and I'm blessed that I'm able to see my shows at all. I'm out of work and don't want to have to buy anything now but will if I'm forced. Also a converter box would be just as stressful and not worth the hassle, as also I hope to be moved out of my current resident in the near months. So Please just back off and give our world a break, while sending a healhier message that More, Better, etc isn't always where it's at.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31. identicon
    Kurt Bellman, Jan 15th, 2009 @ 1:23pm

    DELAY IT! For many many months I've been told all I need was a converter box. Now I have it and it gets NO SIGNALS. Now I'm told I need a $600 minimum antenna upgrade. Okay, I'll do that, but not in January in PA, thank you very much. I need until the warm weather comes back.

    That's all I'm asking.

    No one in the PSA's said I needed a new antenna. I'm only finding that out now.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32. identicon
    Julie, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 5:56pm

    Re: Delay It!!

    Hi Kurt,

    What a relief to find one person out there who's just as fusterated as myself. Although for me I would wish the whole digital era away for a bit longer but I guess I can't be that unrealistic and for the most part it's around. Yes keeping analalog until summer would be a compromise, as it would give more people to really seriously prepare and shop around etc. I responded before you #30, which expresses more of my thoughts but what you said is more of what I've been thinking.
    Good luck

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33. identicon
    Niki, Jan 31st, 2009 @ 8:38am

    Re: Misplaced Comma?

    LOL! Good grief. Pick at everything, whydoncha?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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