Tag: DTV

The End of Analog: Will There be Riots?

Washington Post, transcript of Commerce Secretary Locke’s White House briefing on DTV transition.

On a serious note, the long-delayed switch from analog to digital television is a good thing, freeing up valuable frequencies for more efficient and useful communications services, including cell phone and law enforcement tranmissions.

The transition, however, provides a powerful case lesson as to how the federal government can foul up things. The stimulus bill passed in February allocated $650 million more to implement the program and pay for additional consumer coupons to buy digital converter boxes. And there were the delays.

What a mess. On to health care reform!

P.S. And there are still 118 stations broadcasting on analog via the “Statutory Analog Nightlight Program.”  CBS will still serve Roseburg with an analog signal. For a month. Whew. (List of stations.)

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Clunkers = Analog TV, Cash = Coupons, Experience = Doubts

USA Today reports “House Democrats and the Obama administration have agreed on a compromise for a so-called cash-for-clunkers bill…Similar to European programs, the legislation — also called “fleet modernization” or “scrappage” — would provide federal vouchers of up to $4,500 for people to trade in their vehicles for new ones that get better mileage.”

There’s much to like in incentives to encourage vehicle purchases, especially the retiring of more-polluting cars and an immediate boost to the auto industry.

But Congress would do well to learn from experience, i.e., the DTV transition experience.

The Washington Post today reports on the continued problems afflicting the federally mandated transition from analog to digital TV, a switch originally set for February, now scheduled for June. “Digital TV Transition, Set for June, May Get Early Test” reports that the backlog of $40 coupons to buy digital converter boxes has been cleared up, thanks to $650 million for DTV transition included in the stimulus bill.

Yes, $650 million.

Critics of the digital TV postponement …[say] the delay was unnecessary, expensive — and possibly even a threat to public safety because emergency responders have been waiting to use a part of the wireless spectrum that broadcasters will soon vacate.

The more widespread complaint, however, has been the amount of money allocated to bolster the transition program.

“This is a $650 million mistake,” said Rep. Joe L. Barton (R-Tex.), who was an opponent of postponing the digital TV transition. If the transition program uses all of that money, “they’ve managed to spend $1,000 per household for a device that costs $50.”

Apply Rep. Barton’s calculations to vehicle vouchers, then auto coupons for $4,500 could wind up costing the taxpayers $90,000 each.

More from today’s news.

And Der Spiegel, “Car-Scrapping Plans — Germany’s Lessons“: “German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cash-for-clunkers scheme has boosted auto sales, saved factory jobs, and rid the roads of gas guzzlers. But the costs are high.”

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In a Blackout, It Doesn’t Matter if Your TV is Digital or Analog

From the Washington Post story, “Alternative Energy Still Facing Headwinds,” citing President Obama’s recent remarks at the Department of Energy:

“After decades of dragging our feet,” Obama said, the “plan will finally spark the creation of a clean energy industry that will create hundreds of thousands of jobs over the next few years, manufacturing wind turbines and solar cells, for example.”

Obama said U.S. renewable fuel capacity will double in “the next few years.” Noting that the electrical grid has changed little since the era of black-and-white TV, he promised a “better, smarter” network that will “ship wind and solar power from one end of this country to the other.”

Yet the $2 billion in the stimulus package devoted to transmission lines is a tiny part of what’s needed.

From AP, cited in today’s Washington Post, “Some TV stations get ready to cut analog signals“:

The stimulus bill that President Barack Obama is expected to sign on Tuesday contains $650 million in additional funding. Once that’s available to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, it can clear the 4 million coupon backlog in a few weeks.

Transmission lines: $2 billion

Consumer subsidies and “education” for transition to DTV: $650 million.

UPDATE (3:30 p.m.): How much money for the smart grid? Grist, the environmental advocacy site, summarizes energy provisions in the stimulus bill, including $11 billion for smart grid and $7.5 billion for renewable energy and transmission-line construction. But at the American Spectator, alternative-energy critic and pessimist William Tucker reports “$4.5 billion for ‘smart grid’ upgrades and $6.5 billion to help the Bonneville and Western Area Power Administrations upgrade their grid to ferry renewable energy from remote regions.” Here’s Bloomberg: “The measure contains $4.5 billion for the energy-efficient smart grid and $6.5 billion for transmission lines serving federally operated utilities such as the Bonneville Power Administration, for a total of $11 billion in upgraded power production.” Indeed, the $11 billion figure is the most frequent one we see.

 

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DTV, the Costly Chaos Continues

A commenter makes the point that the DTV transition was far more than just an inconvenience as we suggested in drawing a comparison to the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.  Noted and reaffirmed by today’s news.

From today’s Washington Post, Federal City Digest column:

Nearly 500 television stations told the Federal Communications Commission last week that they intended to go ahead and change to digital broadcasts tomorrow, the deadline for the switch they had been planning around for three years. But when Congress postponed the deadline, moving it to June 12, the FCC said it reserved the right to prevent stations from switching on the earlier date if it posed a public safety threat to particular markets.

The FCC initially responded that it would not let 123 stations switch tomorrow, our colleague Kim Hart reports, primarily because every major commercial station was planning to switch in some markets, potentially throwing consumers without digital-enabled TV sets into the dark about important public safety information and news alerts. It then amended that number to 106…[snip]

Net result: Fifty-three stations made such moves and will switch early, 10 are in limbo pending hardship appeals, and 43 must wait.

For a market-specific report, the Duluth News-Tribune has a good column, observing “Broadcasters worked a year or longer, and at great expense, not only to inform the public but to explain how to connect converter boxes or how to take other necessary measures…The intervention of Congress turned what had been a well-planned, well-publicized transformation into confusion and chaos.”

From conference report to H.R. 1, the economic stimulus bill.

DIGITAL-TO-ANALOG CONVERTER BOX PROGRAM For an amount for ‘‘Digital-to-Analog Converter Box Program’’, $650,000,000, for additional coupons and related activities under the program implemented under section 3005 of the Digital Television Transition and Public Safety Act of 2005, to remain available until September 30, 2010: Provided, That of the amounts provided under this heading, $90,000,000 may be for education and outreach, including grants to organizations for programs to educate vulnerable populations, including senior citizens, minority communities, people with disabilities, low-income individuals, and people living in rural areas, about the transition and to provide one-on-one assistance to vulnerable populations, including help with converter box installation.

 

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DTV, All is Flux

From the Washington Post, “500 TV Stations Still Plan to Make Digital Switch Next Week

With millions of U.S. viewers still apparently unprepared for the nation’s switch to digital TV, nearly 500 full-power television stations across the nation are preparing to move ahead with the transition and drop traditional over-the-air broadcasts next Tuesday.

So the impact of Congressional action in legislating the delay to July 31 was to cause more confusion, more disruption and, we bet, more litigation. No surprise, really.

Personal testimony: Having bought an over-the-air digital TV last week, have to admit that it’s better than the rabbit-eared analog. Now, A-Team and Rockford Files reruns every night! And eight different weather maps. And Baltimore local news reports. And every “Austin City Limits” ever broadcast.

Why delay?

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