Why the Digital Transition Must Be Delayed
January 9, 2009 10:34 AM
This past summer I met a savvy and frugal college graduate. Having just landed his first job, he had no cable television in his first apartment.
He also landed one of those $40 coupons to buy a digital converter box being offered by bricks-and-mortar retailers as well as online.
After extensive research, he found that most of the retailers were selling the boxes for $80, not the $40 he said the government had led him to expect. But he bought one anyhow, choosing not to subscribe to cable, a more costly proposition.
But there are millions of TV viewers who didn’t get one, and for now they cannot. The Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration is empty-handed, having spent its $1.34 billion budget, and has started a waiting list for those who still need coupons.
Clearly the country, in the throes of a deep and long recession, is not ready for this transition. The nation’s new unemployment figures came out today, showing a 7.2% loss of jobs last month.
Clearly people without jobs and without cable should not be pressured into subscribing to cable if they can’t get one of these coupons.
That reality is not lost upon President-elect Barack Obama, who has more important things to worry about, like fixing the broken economy and dealing with escalating tensions in Gaza.
So what’s the big rush? I know the new spectrum is supposed to be auctioned off to wireless phone companies or to be used by first responders like police and fire fighters.
But think about this: I once had a reporter work for me who said, “Deadlines are artificial and meant to be broken. If the story isn’t there yet, it just isn’t there.”
In retrospect, he’s right. In this case, the digital story is just not ready for primetime.