DTV: Out of Plane, No Parachute
January 8, 2009 5:17 PM
So, we are at just 40 days (and nights?) away from the transition to digital only broadcasting here in the United States, unless Barack Obama succeeds in delaying the DTV switch. All is not well in Camelot my friends.
The $40 coupon program has run out of money. Those who waited to order the coupons are now being put on a waiting list that is being funded by money returned to the program from coupons that were never redeemed. That funding has to trickle back into the system before more coupons can be sent to those on the waiting list.
The Obama presidential transition team is attempting to persuade Congress to delay the hard deadline for the end of analog broadcasting. High ranking Democrats are making the argument that the coupon program is in shambles, and that there are millions of households that simply are not ready, and cannot be ready in time for the Feb. 17 analog shutoff date.
High ranking Republicans argue that changes are needed in the accounting procedures for the coupon program to help stem the tide of applications that have flooded in requesting the coupons. They argue that changing the transition date at this time would create confusion with the public.
Nielsen reported in December that 6.8% of all U. S. households in were totally unready for the transition, and 10% were partially unready. They also stated that 11% of all Hispanic households were not ready for the transition, as well.
There is another plan to allow all television stations that are on the VHF low band (channels 2-6) to remain on the air with their analog signals, if they desire. The intent is to have them continuing to broadcast for emergency communications if necessary.
President George Bush signed a bill on December 23 known as the SAFER act that allows one television station in each market to remain on the air with an analog signal for up to 30 days after the Feb. 17 transition deadline. It is affectionately called the DTV "nightlight" bill. As was mentioned above, some want all stations on analog channels 2-6 to have the option to stay on the air. So far only 136 television markets out of 210 have a station that could remain on the air without causing undue interference with other stations.
The Consumers Electronics Association (CEA) is OK with the transition date. They did a survey with retailers and noted that converter boxes are in stock, and ready for purchase. But the converter box is only half the battle, as many of you well know who frequent this forum. On the other side is the antenna situation and I might add that it may be the "bigger" half.
The Consumers Union is urging a delay in the timing of the Feb. 17 deadline. Citing the current state of the economy and the under funding of the converter box coupon program as the primary reasons. Noting that this a federally mandated transition, they claim that millions of Americans will have to dig into their own pockets to navigate the transition at a time when many are suffering the effects of the down economy.
I made a statement in one of the posts here on the blog the other day that I felt like we had jumped out of a perfectly good airplane, and the transition date (read as “ground”) was rapidly approaching. I need to revise that statement a bit.
I feel like we were pushed out of that aircraft. Now I am confident that my parachute will open, and that I will be OK. I have a great outdoor antenna, and can get all of our local HD and SD digital stations, and one that is over 60 miles from me. But I worry about that steady stream of others who had to bail out behind me. I am not so sure that all will make it to the "ground" and survive.
I figure we will just have see how this all plays out, and once again, stay tuned...