Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Congress: "TV Stations Did Whaaaat??"

More than a decade ago, the federal government began the process of forcing a transition from analog television to digital. For several years, the message has been Digital transition on February 17, 2009. Get your converter box before it's too late! Millions of people have spent money to buy converter boxes for their analog televisions, so they could continue to watch TV.

The government even set up a government website to address the situation. ( A telling phrase is from the FAQ:

Why are we switching to DTV?
An important benefit of the switch to all-digital broadcasting is that it will free up parts of the valuable broadcast spectrum for public safety communications such as police, fire departments, and rescue squads. Also, some of the spectrum will be auctioned to companies that will be able to provide consumers with more advanced wireless services (such as wireless broadband).

In other words, the government saw a way to make money. The government now "owns" the broadcast spectrum, to the extent that it can auction it off. No word on who the government bought it from.

The conversion has had a rough start. Test conversions in specific cities have had poor results. Many people were not prepared, or the digital technology had glitches. The government was not able to keep up with the demand for coupons that provided a discount to consumers for the converter boxes.

As a result, Congress has pushed the mandatory conversion back to June 12, 2009. Now, instead of the compulsory transition date they have had in effect for years, they give TV stations the "choice" to switch to digital broadcasting. Many stations, after having spent millions of dollars on upgrading or replacing their equipment, will go ahead with the transition on February 17, as has been the plan for years.

It's likely that millions of people will be without television service come February 17. Only now, instead of Congress taking the heat for their legislation, they will be able to throw up their hands as though they had nothing to do with it. They will likely come out with public statements about how TV stations are victimizing the poor and the elderly. They will put their own foolishness off on someone else.

When the TV riots of 2009 start, blame Congress.

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