Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Television Media Government The Almighty Buck Politics

Sorting Through the Analog to Digital TV Mess 798

H_Fisher writes "CNN offers an article from Fortune magazine, giving a look at the problems surrounding the mandatory switch from analog to digital TV in the U.S., now slated for 2009. 'Managing this transition -- which will render about 70 million TV sets obsolete -- will be not be easy,' Marc Gunther writes. Among the problems: millions of American households without cable or satellite access will lose free access to news and weather along with the rest of their broadcast fare. Uncle Sam's solution? 'Yes, the very same federal government that is cutting back on college loans and food stamps will soon be issuing TV vouchers' - $1.5 billion to help U.S. households buy new digital TV equipment."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Sorting Through the Analog to Digital TV Mess

Comments Filter:
  • We bitch about and make light of all the delays going digital, and then we bitch when the government propose to help disadvantaged groups to maintain access to broadcast television, for whatever it's worth.

    Let's not forget:

    To be sure, the transition will facilitate a lot of progress for both the tech industry and the public sector. Once TV stations switch to digital transmission, they will return to the government a big chunk of the radio spectrum they currently use to transmit their analog channels.

    Some of
    • You'd think on /. submitters would have some basic math skills.

      "Yes, the very same federal government that is cutting back on college loans and food stamps will soon be issuing TV vouchers"

      !"increasing as much as planned" != "cutting back"

      Of course, it is a /. article, so I suppose we've come to expect at least one troll line in the article summary.
      • by daveschroeder ( 516195 ) * on Wednesday January 04, 2006 @01:26PM (#14393188)
        Of course, it is a /. article, so I suppose we've come to expect at least one troll line in the article summary.

        Yeah, I thought about pointing that out, too, but that quote was actually from the Fortune article itself [cnn.com]. :-/ Take it up with the author [mailto], I guess...
      • Well, except that the "plan" is to increase it to keep pace with cost of living/inflation.. to not do so is to, in effect, cut the program. Those of you born with silver spoons in their mouths will never have to worry about it.
      • by jd142 ( 129673 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2006 @02:15PM (#14393665) Homepage
        !"increasing as much as planned" != "cutting back"

        Pretend the following:

        Your job is to provide 1 apple to every student each day. It is 2005 and apples cost 50 cents. You have 200 students. The 2005 government budget has given you $100 dollars a day to do the job. You can do your job and have no problems. You serve 100% of the students.

        The government forecasts that in 2006, apples will cost 60 cents and increases in enrollment will give you 220 students. Because it knows that these are just projections, the government projects a 2006 budget for you of $140 a day, 40% increase in budget, but you should be able to do your job with a little money to spare. You still serve 100% of the students.

        When it comes time to actually pass the budget, the government gives you a budget of $125 a day budget, a 25% increase over this year's budget. However, government projections of prices and enrollments were on target. Apples now cost 60 cents and you have to provide apples for 220 students each day.

        You can only purchase 208 applies, which means that 12 students are no longer covered.

        Did your budget increase? Yes.
        Did you cut back on the percentage of students you can serve and the services you offer? Yes.

        Thus not increasing by as much as planned does equal cutting back.

        • by myth24601 ( 893486 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2006 @02:42PM (#14393949)
          Actually, if the free apples program costs $100/day then you would probibly be budgeted $500/day and would have to do the usual orgy of aquisition at the end of the year so that you can say you don't have enought money to do the job. You will probibly have at least twice as many employees working for you then you need too since in government, your status is judged by how many people you have.

          Lets not even get into how you will frequently run out of apples while waiting for multiple competitive bids from apple suppliers. Then you must make sure that the apple supply contracts are handed to vendors in the proper legislative districts so you will have the votes you need.

          special consideration to 'disadvantaged' apple suppliers

          Invironmental impact studies

          Gotta make sure you pay the fairtrade apple rate

          and so on...

        • Why are people getting free stuff with my tax dollars??
          • The myth is that, at the end of the day, you get just as much free stuff with their tax dollars. It doesn't really work out that way but that's the argument. One side claims "will of the people" and the other side claims "pyramid scheme". Look at the distribution of wealth and tell me which is more likely to fit the model.
        • Now try and apply that to the reality of the changes in the student loan program [newsobserver.com] and you'll see that your example has absolutely no relation to reality.

          The per student amount of loans available was raised considerably. The artifically low interest rates subsidized by the government were allowed to rise a couple percent, but with the benefit of becoming fixed instead of variable. Interest rates in the US have been rising recently, you might also note.

          Any student who is currently eligible for a student loan w
    • The rest of the spectrum will be auctioned off to the highest bidders -- probably tech companies. The sale of this valuable, scarce real estate is expected to bring in about $10 billion, maybe more. That will help reduce the federal budget deficit.

      Wrong, because I guarantee that the above number is based on spectrum space now.

      Spectrum space commands such a high price because it is limited right now. Open up the supply, with the same demand, and price goes down. This is economics 101.
    • by neomunk ( 913773 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2006 @01:33PM (#14393256)
      I'm really impressed that the appeal to Sept. 11th came in on the FIRST article. Slashdot should be proud to have the right wing spin machine view it with the importance that it receives.

      Forget college, forget healthcare, we need radio bandwidth and tax cuts for the richest to help fight the terrorists.


      80 years ago people were expected to read Shakespear in the 4th grade, now we (MAYBE) get into it by high school. We've been dumbed down folks, and if you don't think TV played a large part in that, well, you watch too much TV...

    • Of course they will pay for new TVs. Bread and Circuses....Bread and Circuses. Besides, how else do you oil a propaganda machine and ensure it reaches the masses? You need to be able to get them all your message.
      • by daveschroeder ( 516195 ) * on Wednesday January 04, 2006 @01:53PM (#14393456)
        LOL, I love slashdot. :-)

        If we converted to digital and left the poorest of our nation out in the cold, we'd devolve into some discussion about how the evil government was depriving the weakest among us from access to a free press, possibly even with a few stats peppered in about how TV is even more important for them because of illiteracy rates, and so on, and maybe some good socialism arguments to boot.

        But when we DO help them, it's, of course, a conspiracy to spread propaganda and keep everyone under their thumbs! (After all, network television is nothing more than a propaganda mouthpiece for the government!)

        You guys are the best. ;-)
        • by bitspotter ( 455598 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2006 @05:47PM (#14395718) Journal
          We need a common name for the fallacy that everyone on Slashdot thinks alike. Just because the other side has an opportunity to express their differences with other Slashdotters doesn't mean "we" should be //faulted// for being inconsistent.

          News flash: groups composed of many people from all over the world don't all think alike! What a concept!
        • by patternjuggler ( 738978 ) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @12:52AM (#14398316) Homepage
          If we converted to digital and left the poorest of our nation out in the cold, we'd devolve into some discussion [something contradictory to below]

          But when we DO help them [something contradictory to above]

          This particular posting doesn't out-and-out accuse We Slashdotters of hypocrisy, but that's the strong implication. How can anyone be so stupid to accuse a group of people of hypocrisy, especially a group claiming no political or ideological uniformity of its members?

          Yes, there's probably a plausible explanation, but I don't really care. The 'you guys said one thing before and another thing later and the moderators agreed, you all are hypocrites' argument is retarded.

    • by fimbulvetr ( 598306 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2006 @01:36PM (#14393290)
      Except that a few 1.5B here and a few 1.5B here lead to us raising the debt limit:

      http://today.reuters.com/News/newsArticle.aspx?typ e=politicsNews&storyID=2005-12-29T225501Z_01_KNE98 2458_RTRUKOC_0_US-ECONOMY-DEBTLIMIT.xml [reuters.com]

      I don't know about you, but I'm not a big fan of that.
    • It's not actually that horrifying that they're subsidizing it. College money isn't going to help a good number of disadvantaged people, these may not have finished high school and may be barely literate, or any number of scenarios in which education is neither helpful nor possible. Having a working TV is very important, it's the only way to keep citizens informed of emergencies, government activities, etc. We take the state of the union address for granted, but it's important it is there, and gets out to pe
    • by Guppy06 ( 410832 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2006 @01:46PM (#14393390)
      "We bitch about and make light of all the delays going digital,"

      "We" do? Personally, I'm still complaining about needing to switch to begin with. Between the government-mandated switch, the push for the broadcast flag, and now these new pork vouchers, I find nothing to be happy about with the entire process.
  • Oh come on now! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geminidomino ( 614729 ) * on Wednesday January 04, 2006 @01:19PM (#14393110) Journal
    Uncle Sam's solution? 'Yes, the very same federal government that is cutting back on college loans and food stamps will soon be issuing TV vouchers' - $1.5 billion to help U.S. households buy new digital TV equipment."

    That's not fair. Surely protecting the priceless "inter-lickual propretty" is more important than little things like eating and education. Where are your priorities? Your sense of ethics? Your campaign contributions?
  • College vs. TV (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drewzhrodague ( 606182 ) <drewNO@SPAMzhrodague.net> on Wednesday January 04, 2006 @01:20PM (#14393119) Homepage Journal
    Uh, I'd rather go to college than watch TV. Why is it that I can get help buying a digital TV, but can't get help with tuition?
  • by Tassleman ( 66753 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2006 @01:22PM (#14393136) Homepage
    This is completely retarded. Why not put that money into creating cheap HD Antennas that output shitty analog to Pronged/Coax/Component so people can continue on as usual with a new antenna?
    • by limabone ( 174795 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2006 @01:26PM (#14393177)
      You can already pick up HD signals with your crappy rabbit ears or that monstrosity attached to your house...a generic UHF/VHF antenna will do just fine, and companies that advertise their antennas as being for HDTV are just trying to entice you into buying them.

      You will NOT have to replace your antenna, what you will need to get is an external converter to turn the signals from your antenna into something your current TV can handle.
      • MOD THIS GUY UP.
        We just bought a nice 40" HDTV, and our old antenna pulls down Over-The-Air HD broadcasts just fine. In fact, we get better quality from OTA than we do from our Dish Network box, because the satellite box does a D to A conversion (yes, I know I need to buy the HD sat reciever and spend the extra $5/mo to fix this).
    • Why not put that money into creating cheap HD Antennas that output shitty analog to Pronged/Coax/Component so people can continue on as usual with a new antenna?

      Uhm, because there's a lot involved with converting a HD signal to a standard pronged/coax/component signal. HD is digital, so you need a decoder (in addition to the demondulator). Currently the prices for such a box is about $200 (I think, this was a while ago). The hope is that by the time standard definition gets turned off, the boxes will be
    • But that's pretty much exactly what they ARE doing. The vouchers will be used help pay for the HD-to-analog converter box. Depending upon where you are located, you may be able to use your existing UHF/VHF antenna. If you are too far from the broadcast antenna, there may be value in purchasing a 'HDTV' antenna specifically designed to capture the broadcast.

      I don't know why one would need (or even want) the converter box built into the antenna, as you've suggested. At a minimum, it's probably going to re
    • That is what these funds are for. These funds will be used to purchase converter boxes to convert the digital signal received from the source to an analog signal.

      There is no such thing as a "HD Antenna". UHF/VHF antennas can be used to watch Digital OTA broadcasts, in theory. There's a whole other question about the quality of the signal as received by the antenna- those rabbit ears probably won't work very wekk. A weak analog signal results in a snowy picture-- it's low quality but watchable. A weak digita
  • question for /.ers (Score:3, Interesting)

    by John Harrison ( 223649 ) <johnharrison@gma ... m minus language> on Wednesday January 04, 2006 @01:23PM (#14393141) Homepage Journal
    Does anyone out there have a set-top box to recieve over the air digital TV signals? A free one, not a pay service like Xoom or USDTV? I know that broadcasters as sending out digital signals but I don't know anyone that currently receives them.
    • I do. My TV (Samsung TX-P3071WH) has a built-in ATSC tuner for tuning over the air (OTA) HD channels. I use a Zenith ZHDTV1 indoor antenna to receive my local ABC and CBS affiliates' broadcasts over the air. My cable provider (Time Warner) doesn't include the ABC HD channel in their HD package, so I picked up the antenna and my reception is great. Check out AntennaWeb [antennaweb.org] for information on broadcasts in your area to see what you might be able to pick up.
    • I have one. It's a Samsung SIR-T451 [refurbdepot.com], which you can get refurbed (like new) for $150. I'm very pleased with it. I'm in a marginal signal area and the digital signal is easier to receive than the analog signal for most stations. The picture quality is excellent. I have it connected to an old NTSC color set, so it converts everything to 480i.
  • Bread and Circus (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ThatGeek ( 874983 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2006 @01:23PM (#14393142) Homepage
    'Yes, the very same federal government that is cutting back on college loans and food stamps will soon be issuing TV vouchers' - $1.5 billion to help U.S. households buy new digital TV equipment."

    There is a reason why the Romans didn't talk about "Bread, Circus and Higher Education". As long as people are fat and happy, you can basically do whatever you want. Large business know this. The shills they put in government know this. And we know this too.
  • by OakDragon ( 885217 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2006 @01:23PM (#14393152) Journal
    'Yes, the very same federal government that is cutting back on college loans and food stamps will soon be issuing TV vouchers'

    I realize this is in an 'analysis' piece, but I would be very surprised if it were actually true. Unless by cutting back, he means cutting back in the rate of growth. I'm not even going to attempt to Google this to find meaningful figures, for (I hope) obvious reasons. Anyone know where we can see the real increases/decreases for funding of such items?

    • I realize this is in an 'analysis' piece, but I would be very surprised if it were actually true. Unless by cutting back, he means cutting back in the rate of growth.

      Neither is true. Anyone who tries to criticize the current administration for spending less on anything is either ill-informed or has been living in a box for the past 6 years. During George W. Bush's term in office, Federal spending has increased at a rate opposite of free fall. Its one of the things that many conservatives like myself f

  • Television is a necessary component for our government. $1.5 Billion is a good investment on two counts:

    1) The billions the government can rake in in radio frequency auctions
    2) Continuance of a medium to keep the unwashed masses under control.

  • Maybe the US could build a system along the lines of Freeview, http://www.freeview.co.uk/ [freeview.co.uk] or FreeSat, http://www.freesatfromsky.co.uk/ [freesatfromsky.co.uk]

    Set top boxes cost from as little as £30 for terrestrial thus meaning those 70 million analogue TVs will be good for years to come.

  • by BlackStar ( 106064 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2006 @01:24PM (#14393160) Homepage
    Why is this being legislated? Broadcast could represent a major opportunity as a niche system. All that infrastructure will just be junked? There's a lot of legs left in those transmitters and in the analog network. Economically, this doesn't make any sense.

    Add to that the landfill mess this looks to cause. That's a LOT of analog TVs that go to essentially worthless in very short order. We're already dealing with too much computer waste going into the landfills, and now the US is going to legislate putting a very large pile of still functioning and capable televisions in there all at once?

    Brilliant. Special interest groups at work again in the legislature it would seem.

    • by pcraven ( 191172 ) <<moc.ylimafnevarc> <ta> <luap>> on Wednesday January 04, 2006 @01:34PM (#14393274) Homepage
      It is being legislated because the spectrum is legislated. It would open up a lot of money's worth of spectrum, more than 1.5 billion worth.

      You don't have to junk the TV, just get a digital receiver and then plug it into your current TV.
    • My understanding is that owners of existing analog televisions will have to buy (possibly with government assistance) a tuner/converter box that plugs into their antenna and their television. Maybe they'll need to get a remote control to change the channel. Nobody needs to throw out their television. Yes, some people will instead buy a new digital TV, but it won't be a big deal in the larger scheme of things.

      Analog TV transmitters, on the other hand, will probably be mostly useless. Most antenna towers do

  • What can be done? I really wish there was a way to use both, or make digital backwards compatable with analog sets. I know there must be more tech behind this than that, but hell, giving money for people to buy new TVs? I think there are some basic needs that could be fufilled first. (can I get a healthcare witness?) Again, we're all used to Apple breaking backwards compatibility (to their credit, OS 9 'classic' apps run tons better now under OS X than when 10.1 came out), but the government? They're a
  • In the Bay Area (Score:3, Interesting)

    by OYAHHH ( 322809 ) * on Wednesday January 04, 2006 @01:24PM (#14393162) Homepage

    The San Francisco Bay Area the digital transition will not work without a lot of upgrading on peoples part.

    There are multiple transmission locations for TV in the Bay Area. This basically means that unless you have one of those monster antennas on your roof you will need an antenna pointed in the direction of the transmissions. Think multiple antennas. Multiple friends of mine have multiple antennas.

    Not only that, but from all accounts of those already trying to receive digital transimissions, including myself, digital signals simply do not travel as far.

    Or perhaps lets put it another way, the signal may travel just as far as a current day signal, but at the ranges quite a few people in the SF Bay Area are at from the transmission tower the signal is too weak to register within the digital TV receiver to be accurately display. Thus, either you get a perfect signal (or picture if you will) or you get nothing at all. And a lot more people, including myself, are getting nothing at all on my HDTV since I'm just far enough away that the signal seems to be too weak. And I live in the San Jose area, 30 or so miles from San Francisco as the bird flys.

    Lastly, quite a few people in the east of SF live in quite mountainous conditions. Cannot pick up things there either.
    • Re:In the Bay Area (Score:3, Informative)

      by Ironsides ( 739422 )
      Most DTV Transmitters have not been transmitting at full power. There is a deadline coming up at some point where they will have to start transmitting at full power, at that point you should have much better recepetion. As to why they have not been xmitting at full? Power costs a lot of money. TV stations generally spend 10k per month on a single transmitter.
  • by Surt ( 22457 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2006 @01:24PM (#14393164) Homepage Journal
    Any entity that is to continue to exist must look out for its own survival.

    In our current system of government, the greatest danger to the existing power structure is voting. A better educated populace is more likely to vote, while a TV watching populace is less likely to do so. So it is in the interests of the state to do what it can to discourage education beyond the minimum level necessary to support the state. Hence the emphasis on putting lots of dollars into extending the reach and influence of TV.
    • "Any entity that is to continue to exist must look out for its own survival."

      You're on the right track there.

      "In our current system of government, the greatest danger to the existing power structure is voting."

      I disagree. The democratic state relies almost entirely on masses of selfish people voting. It's so much easier to keep their power by pandering to the ignorant 70% than by demonstrating true merit to the smarter 30%. All they have to do is promise each large demographic that they'll give them a bunch
  • news? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by pruss ( 246395 )
    Can't one get news and weather from the radio, also for free (except you have to buy a receiver, but those are cheaper than TVs)?
  • What the? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CaffeineAddict2001 ( 518485 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2006 @01:26PM (#14393182)
    If you are poor, elderly or uneducated TV should be the last thing you are worrying about.

    This really gives some credit to the theory that the primary purpose of television is to pacify people and have them forget the real problems they face.
  • by soapee01 ( 698313 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2006 @01:26PM (#14393186)
    From tfa: the sale of the spectrum would generate approximately $10b in revenue. The net gain ($10b - $1.5b) would still be a revenue influx of $8.5b. This sounds like a (surprisingly) fair and mutually beneficial deal.

    Regardless of your feeleings on television, it is important that everyone have free (or near free) access to news, state of the union addresses, etc.
  • I am really going to hate to see TV vouchers end up in the hands of people living on government assistance. I still have fresh memories of walking into a subsidized housing development and seeing a 60" TV on one wall, and a stack of $100 bills on a coffee table.

    That being said, If it's only going to be "earmarked" for vouchers, and not blindly spent... the $21.43 that is spent on replacing each of those those 70 million sets will have a decent economic impact... I would just rather see that money being spen
  • Set-top box? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Soruk ( 225361 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2006 @01:28PM (#14393203) Homepage
    The UK seems to have got the right idea. We can get digital terrestrial set-top boxes that plug into the TV, via a SCART lead (which carries, amongst other things RGB and Composite picture signals, and stereo audio), or on a few boxes via an analogue RF signal. That way virtually all existing TV sets can remain in use long after the switch-over takes place.

    Only the really old sets don't have SCART sockets now, and although suitable boxes with RF Out exist they are more expensive.
    • Re:Set-top box? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ettlz ( 639203 )
      I feel that I should point out here that SCART is a terrible idea. The majority of SCART cables are cheaply made without proper RF shielding giving terrible cross-talk between the lines.
    • Same here (Score:3, Interesting)

      Here in France, digital over-the-air TV was just launched last September. The analog signal is not supposed to be switched off before 2015 or so. Yet you can already buy a digital converter for euro59.90 or less in virtually every store. Those boxes just convert the digital signal received by your regular antenna into a signal readable by your regular TV.

      We're using DVB-T here like most Restoftheworldians. AFAIK, North America adopted ATSC which uses a different modulation technique. Maybe that's the r
      • Re:Same here (Score:4, Informative)

        by TheSync ( 5291 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2006 @05:13PM (#14395395) Journal
        ATSC is not inherently harder to demodulate than DVB-T, in fact it is a bit easier, but only if you don't have multipath interference. Until this year, ATSC demodulators have had a rough time with multipath intereference, but now there are new chips that can handle it OK.

        DVB-T uses COFDM which uses hundreds or thousands of carriers at different frequencies that change amplitude slowly. On the other hand, ATSC uses a single carrier amplitude modulated very quickly (VSB modulated, technically). Thus small time differences due to multipath are not a problem for COFDM, but are a problem for 8-VSB modulation of ATSC. The new chips have extensive time-domain equalizers to handle multipath.

        On the other hand, there was evidence that 8-VSB provides a greater coverage area with less power. Power costs are a major issue for television transmitters.

        The other issue is that ATSC includes high-definition, while European DVB-T systems don't (as far as I know). Hi-def decoders are a bit more complex than standard-def decoders.
  • by dada21 ( 163177 ) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Wednesday January 04, 2006 @01:28PM (#14393208) Homepage Journal
    Why is Congress and the FCC even bothering with what is obviously not within their powers as delegated to them by the Constitution? The 9th and 10th Amendments apply here.

    First, setting a regulatory standard for television broadcasts and forcing the industry to adhere to them is no longer necessary -- when TV was new, I can understand government enforcing a standard. With technology changing monthly, letting the market figure out what is needed is the best solution.

    To me, this seems to be simple cronyism by the State. By creating these standards, they're creating a high cost to entry in the video broadcast market. The quicker we see broadband hit the homes, the more I realize that broadcast television is a complete waste of space. Deregulating ALL broadcast television and letting the frequencies be used by wireless broadcasters would make much more sense to me. Can you imagine how cheap and how fast wireless would be if we gave up all those megahertz?

    Broadcasting isn't even important: people want video on demand (whether by cable, satellite, ThePirateBay, or PVR). Broadcasting isn't even efficient anymore: advertisers prefer knowing exact numbers rather than "we think we hit 700,000 with this show." In the long run, Congress and the FCC are applying ideas from 1970 to technology that could change 20 times in the next 20 years. Why restrict it?

    I say it is time to just ignore these guys -- if big TV broadcasters want to continue to make a mess and force the little guy out of the business, let them. We'll counter it with rebroadcaster their garbage over BitTorrent and through the sharing of information as it was meant to be: free. Take the infinite supply of data versus the finite demand and you end up with a cost of zero.
    • Why is Congress and the FCC even bothering with what is obviously not within their powers as delegated to them by the Constitution? The 9th and 10th Amendments apply here.

      Because we let them. They do not have any power that we as a people don't grant to them. Luckily for them, that granting of power can be passive, since voter apathy about issues that truly matter to our freedoms (not the abortion and gay-marriage shoutfests) is at an all time high.

      First, setting a regulatory standard for television broadca
  • by truthsearch ( 249536 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2006 @01:29PM (#14393210) Homepage Journal
    Television announcer: Your cable television is experiencing difficulties. Please do not panic. Resist the temptation to read or talk to loved ones. Do not attempt sexual relations, as years of TV radiation have left your genitals withered and useless.
  • by tchuladdiass ( 174342 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2006 @01:29PM (#14393211) Homepage
    Instead of the analog signals being cut at a certain date, I think a better approach would be to decrease the output power of the analog signal by, say, 20% a year over the course of 5 years. That way, people with existing sets won't be forced to suddenly buy new equipment. Those that don't upgrade will just get a gradually weaker signal. A weak signal will cause people to want to upgrade (or get a cheap digital -> analog converter box), where as a suddenly cut off signal will make for angry viewers.
    • Or a different sort of phased:

      5 or more years before analog broadcasts end, no more analog only sets can be sold.
      2 years from the drop dead date, only pure digital sets are sold.

      That way, most sets convert to digital through the natural replacement cycle. Further, new purchasers, who are generally more affluent, bear the brunt of the broadcast switch over.
  • Because there is no way I am willingly going and buying MORE stuff just to watch TV. HD equipment is WAY overpriced. I have already looked into just a receiver so I can use my antenna.. the cheapest I have seen the set-top boxes is 350$ AFTER a 75$ rebate.

    HD antenna's are as cheap as 15$ ... untill the receivers get that low.. I'll stay with analog.

  • Cutting of televison to the poor could be just the thing to precipitate major political change in the United States.

    Or at least major urban riots in the summer of '09.
  • I don't want to be cynical but, what with the sons and daughters of the ruling class not really needing to hold any job until they can be anointed to an executive position, it's probably easier for them to qualify for TV vouchers than people whose every child is slaving away at age 14. Who has more IRS income? I'd love to be rich and be able to support my offspring so that they can qualify as poor. What a scam.

    At a very simplified level that's a perfect description of how it's done.
  • Doing the math. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Caspian ( 99221 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2006 @01:37PM (#14393309)
    $1.5 billion, divided by-- what-- around 280,000,000 USians? That's five bucks a head. If everyone takes an average of one (you KNOW some cheaters will take more than one), that's five bucks per.

    If 10% of the population takes one, that's $50 per.

    If 5% of the population takes one, that's $100 per.

    If 1% of the population takes one, that's $500 per.

    Ah, but this is naive math. That's $1.5 billion for the whole program. I'm sure at least half will get gobbled up by the elaborate system they set up to distribute these things. Retraining, printing forms, programming databases, printing vouchers, negotiating with retailers...

    Any bets on how this $1.5 billion will actually filter down to the little guy?
  • by Zhe Mappel ( 607548 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2006 @02:02PM (#14393530)
    There isn't even the slightest irony in the US government ignoring social priorities in favor of supplying better TVs. TV is the lever in fifty years of social control, and nobody in power wants his hand pried lose.

    The analog-to-digital crisis--nothing that requires emergency expenditures of billions is not a crisis--points up TV's supremacy in American life. Those screens dare not go blank, even for a moment. It is from TV that Americans take proper instruction in the backstabbing rituals of the I Got Mine society ("reality TV"), learn to fear the system's guardians (cops and courtroom dramas), routinely covet what they can't afford (advertising) and get hallucinatory reassurance from square-jawed automatons ("news"). For the dwindling few who still watch such things, it's also where the marionette-in-chief periodically appears on glistening guide wires to rattle off his sermons.

    If Congress didn't help lift the declining middle and growing Wal-Mart classes into the digital age, there'd be trouble. You can't run a nation into debt servitude, steal its liberties, mire it in futile (and feudal) distant wars, corrode its health and environment, leave it to drown in natural disasters, and force it to work longer hours all while presiding over historical levels of official corruption if you also hide the electronic teat. Baby, as every momma knows, wants milk.

  • Bread and Circuses (Score:3, Insightful)

    by blueZhift ( 652272 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2006 @02:07PM (#14393581) Homepage Journal
    The govt has no choice but to provide TV vouchers. There are just too many people out there (many who voted for the current administration) who would be mighty pissed if they couldn't watch TV anymore. Joe Sixpack, NASCAR Dads, and Soccer Moms must have their bread and circuses otherwise they might be inclined to revolt. I wish this were just a joke, but I guess the importance of entertainment just tells us something more about the nature of the human spirit.
  • by XMilkProject ( 935232 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2006 @02:09PM (#14393607) Homepage
    I didn't see this rather obvious fact in a post yet, but people keep debating the government spending the 1.5 billion, so I guess I'll go ahead and state the obvious...

    If you RTFA you will see that the government will be selling off the spectrum used by analog tv for an estimated 10 billion dollars... Hence, spending a small portion of that to facilitate the switch still leaves them with a 8.5 BILLION DOLLAR profit.

    So can we please not have any more stupid posts about increased spending, when this deal is entirely designed to make money, not spend it. 8.5 billion will be made almost immediately, with a likely increase in other technologies boosting the economy in the long run as a direct effect.

    On a side note, I'd love to see any conversation about this move to digital being driven, in part, by the ease of applying DRM to a digital signal.
  • only on /. (Score:3, Informative)

    by the computer guy nex ( 916959 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2006 @02:23PM (#14393743)
    "Forget college, forget healthcare, we need radio bandwidth and tax cuts for the richest to help fight the terrorists."

    Anyone else interested in seeing the person that actually modded this +5 Interesting? Lets not forget that In fact, the percentage of GDP spent on health is higher in the United States than in countries with government-provided health care [mediamatters.org] and the government pays over 300 billion a year in grants towards college [state.gov].

    Heaven forbid we spent 1/200 of that on television. Crazy liberal whiners.
  • by 26199 ( 577806 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2006 @03:05PM (#14394220) Homepage

    Where do people think that 10 billion comes from? It's a tax. A very sneaky one, but a tax nonetheless. You'll be paying extra for all the resulting new technology. Or, worse still, the technology won't arrive because the companies paid a ridiculous amount in the auction. We've seen something like that in the UK with mobile phone spectrum. See the first paragraph of this editorial [www.ebu.ch].

    So, please, don't talk about the switchover as if it produces money. It doesn't, it's just a tax that people aren't smart enough to complain about.

  • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2006 @04:24PM (#14394949) Journal
    Let's be clear about who is doing what to whom, shall we?

    Television is not provided gratis to the viewing public out of the generosity of some media mogul's heart (or space formerly therefore).

    Television is a MEANS of delivering viewer eyeballs to advertiser content. They 'bait' you with 24 minutes of programming per half hour, and then hope you don't notice that they 'switch' to advertising for at least 6 minutes. (Admittedly, lately they've gotten more subtle about the switch part by using product placement, and cheapened the bait with 'Reality' TV, but the principle's the same.)

    Hi-def will be a way for these companies to put out more attractive bait. (OK, actually what happened was that the digital compression algorithms have allowed them to squeeze more analog signals into the allowed bandwidth, more like dropping LOTS of shitty-baited hooks in the water instead of something particularly attractive. Gov't is mandating that they use only the 'pretty bait'.)

    So could someone explain to me why the US gov't is subsidising a privately owned and MASSIVELY profit-generating product delivery system?
  • FactCheck! (Score:3, Informative)

    by GarfBond ( 565331 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2006 @06:27PM (#14396110)
    Here's a nice article from factcheck.org on the subject: Ad Pushes Digital TV - But Doesn't Tell The Whole Story [factcheck.org]
    Telecom companies pushing for a forced conversion to all-digital television broadcasts ran ads in Washington DC and elsewhere highlighting benefits for firemen, police officers, and other "first responders," who stand to receive improved communications capabilities and gear. The ad calls digital TV a "win-win solution" benefiting both consumers and the emergency responders.

    The ad is true as far as it goes, but misleading because it implies that the digital-TV bill taking shape in Congress would have only winners. In fact, there would be losers, too. According to the GAO, an estimated 21 million households now get TV only through a standard, analog TV set, and would be forced either to junk their set and buy a new digital set, or to obtain a new converter that manufacturers estimate will cost about $50.

    Also not mentioned is that taxpayers will be asked to contribute up to $3 billion to subsidize the conversion. That money would come from the proceeds expected from auctioning off some of the airwaves now used by TV broadcasters.

    The funding of the ad is also something of a mystery. One source told us it was financed by Motorola, which stands to profit from the transition by selling new police, fire and emergency radio equipment. Motorola wouldn't confirm that, nor would they deny it.

  • by tekrat ( 242117 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2006 @11:15PM (#14397892) Homepage Journal
    The infrastructure is not up to the task of delivering a digital HDTV signal to every home in America. The cable companies *think* they can handle the load, but they are way wrong.

    There are old buildings with old wires, and as the signal strength decreases before it gets to the TV set (or converter box), the loss of signal will create all kinds of glitches.

    Bad taps in lock boxes in basements can cause signal breakup, loss of signal entirely, and all manner of artifacting, including, but not limited to extreme pixelation of the image and audio degradation to the point of inaudibility.

    In short; the cable companies could find themselves having to re-wire a large percentage of inner-urban areas where the loss of TV entirely for large percentages of the population could even lead to riots.

    Worst is that they are in for a surprise when it still won't work because of other equipment failures between their origination point and the destination box.

    The cable companies, used to short-changing their customer base and providing the lowest service at the higest prices, will suddenly find itself in the unenviable position of actually having to do WORK to make it all happen. And they aren't going to want to pay for it, having already spent their government subsidies on yachts for the upper executives.

    In short, they aren't ready to handle even their existing customer base.

  • by tcgroat ( 666085 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2006 @11:22PM (#14397921)
    Some of that spectrum will go to first responders -- police, fire and public safety officials -- so they can better communicate with one another. Breakdowns in emergency communication slowed the response to the September 11 terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina. New spectrum should help.

    That means duplication or replacement of most existing public safety radio equipment. Since the departments barely have the budgets to maintain the existing systems, where will the money come from to buy, install, and maintain all the new ones? Interoperability was a goal even before 9/11. It still hasn't happened because nobody is willing to pay for it. New spectrum won't help without the equipment to use it.

    The rest of the spectrum will be auctioned off to the highest bidders -- probably tech companies. The sale of this valuable, scarce real estate is expected to bring in about $10 billion, maybe more. That will help reduce the federal budget deficit...Scheduled for 2008, the auction will be the biggest spectrum sale since a 1994-95 spectrum auction. That sale helped boost the mobile phone industry, boosting the number of cell phone subscribers in the U.S. from 24 million to 200 million. It also helped drive down the cost of wireless minutes from an average of 47 cents a minute to 9 cents a minute, according to analysis from financial services firm Stifel Nicolaus.

    First, recall the huge expenditures needed for new public safety radio equipment. That alone is likely to consume all the auction revenue.

    Second, recall the telcom bust that followed the '94-'95 land grab. The survivors remember the financial bloodbath that resulted from that bidding war, and are unlikely to spend so profligately again. The principle of supply and demand strongly suggests that declining air-time prices are symptoms of excess capacity. Why would the telcoms pay billions for more, when they need huge discounts to sell what they already have?

God helps them that themselves. -- Benjamin Franklin, "Poor Richard's Almanac"