The transistion to digital TV: now or later?

BlogHer Original Post

This week the U.S. Senate passed a bill that would delay the adoption of digital TV from the current Feb. 17 deadline to June 12. The bill was supported by President Obama. The bill didn't get through the House (at least not yet), so the question of whether there will be a delay or not is still up in the air.

If you are not sure whether you need to worry about the transition to digital TV, see the list of articles on BlogHer at the end for more basic information about the topic.

Why are we talking about a delay? Over 6 million households (according to this New York Times article) are not ready for Digital TV. There are several reasons for this. One is that many of the households that aren't ready belong to people who are poor or frail or in some way hampered from being able to prepare. To make things even worse, the government ran out of the $40 coupons that are supposed to help people defray the cost of buying a digital converter box. I saw this and thought: the government can print extra dollars in seconds, but they can't produce more coupons? It turns out it has to do with funding. Here's how Pop Culture Kitty described it.

Will the switch happen on February 17th? President-elect Barack Obama asked Congress last Thursday to delay the transition from analog to digital broadcast signals by full power TV stations. It is estimated that as many as 8 million households that use antennas to receive TV signals will not be ready by that date. John Podesta, a co-chair for the Obama transition team, wrote Congress that, “With coupons unavailable, support and education insufficient, and the most vulnerable Americans exposed, I urge you to consider a change to the legislatively mandated analog cutoff date.” The coupon program that allows households to get two $40 coupon cards to use towards the purchase of digital converter boxes has reached the $1.34 billion funding limit set by Congress. As of January 4th, new coupon requests have gone on a waiting list.

If you did happen to beat the Jan. 4 coupon request date, Maria Niles points out that your coupon may have expired.

I've got a couple of older sets that need a box so I ordered two coupons. I had already checked to make sure I would be able to purchase a converter box. Know where you are going to get yours before getting a coupon because you have just 90 days to use the coupon and if it expires you cannot request another one. Our government in action.

The New York Times article I mentioned earlier talked about vulnerable elders. Momocrats talks about children who may be affected. In Children May Be Most Hurt by Digital Television Transition, she quotes PBS President and CEO Paula Kerger and adds,

She is concerned about the PBS audience who rely on TV not just for entertainment, but as a lifeline.

I think this is something we all need to be concerned about. Low income families are going to be hard pressed at this time to spend the money to upgrade their televisions or purchase the converter boxes, and running out of funding at this time will make it tougher for the citizenry to remain informed. It will especially hurt children who will no longer be able to view valuable programming like Sesame Street.

I realize that this is probably not at the top of the list of priorities our new Congress is working on -- but free television is still the most prevalent dissemination method of news and information. It is often used as a lifeline during emergencies. I urge our legislators to extend and expand on the coupon program so all Americans can have access.

Intrestingly, several people who have made the switch already are talking about how much better the picture quality is. In Other Words said,

I am happy to report that my digital converter works just fine. And I could have been enjoying much clearer reception had I done so sooner. I do have extra channels, but where I once had three different local PBS stations, I now have three different channel extensions of one PBS station.

At Finance for a Freelance Life, says they eliminated a monthly cable bill for a one-time expenditure of $20 when they discovered how great the digital picture was.

We finally got our digital converter box. The results are spectacular. Not only do we get a much clearer picture, we also get more channels.

Because we got the $40 coupon, we only paid a few bucks for our inexpensive digital converter box. There are some pricey ones, if you want loads of features, we got one which fits our basic needs.

We also bought some inexpensive rabbit ears because our antenna was pretty sucky.

For maybe $20 bucks, we’ve eliminated a monthly bill.

If you've installed a digital converter successfully for yourself you might consider offering your help to your friends and neighbors who may need help getting the job done. You'd be doing some good and getting to know people in your neighborhood better.

More DTV Help on BlogHer
- Transition to Digital Television Analog to Digital Impacts Seniors, Minorities, Disable and Rural Americans and Communication Crisis on the Horizon - Transition To Digital Television by Digital Dynamo, who has a site specifically to help with Transition to DTV
- Are You Ready for Digital TV?
- Ready or Not, Digital TV is Coming

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Virginia DeBolt
BlogHer Technology Contributing Editor
Web Teacher
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