http://www.boston.com/business/technology/articles/2005/12/12/toward_digital= _tv/ The Boston Globe GLOBE EDITORIAL Toward digital TV December 12, 2005 CONGRESS IS finally getting serious about converting the nation to digital television. It needs to set a firm deadline, provide adequate support so people can still use older sets, and compel manufacturers and retailers to inform consumers of the switch. Conventional analog television signals take up broadcasting space that could be better used for emergency and mobile services. Digital signals are more compact and allow improvements in picture quality. High-definition television, which offers the most detailed picture to consumers, is a digital product. But TV purchasers have been slow to make the switch, and a congressionally imposed deadline of Dec. 31, 2006, is a joke. The lawmakers acted more realistically when they passed competing bills last month as part of budget reconciliation measures. The Senate would put off the deadline until April 7, 2009. The House would set the date at Dec. 31, 2008. Either is fine as long as it is firm. After the deadline, broadcasters would no longer send a conventional signal over the air. Cable or satellite providers would convert the signal to analog for any customer with an old set. Those people who want to pick up over-the-air transmissions in analog would have to buy a converter box costing perhaps $50. To compensate, the government should provide subsidies for converter boxes. The Senate would allocate up to $3 billion, and the House less than $1 billion, both from the sale of surplus broadcast frequencies. As digital TV prices fall, the sets are becoming increasingly popular. A $3 billion subsidy may not be necessary as many people abandon analog. But the House figure seems low. The higher amount should prevail. Because high-definition television is such a big improvement, every set ought to receive all the high-definition signals available in an area. A section of the House bill would allow some cable operators to offer a degraded signal for a few channels. This consumer-unfriendly provision should be rejected. Even as Congress proceeds to set a firm deadline for conversion to digital, many consumers are still being offered analog sets for sale despite their looming obsolescence. The House would compel manufacturers and retailers to put warning stickers on boxes and in stores. This provision may not survive because of a Senate rule that only items having to do with spending can be included in a budget bill. If so, Congress should pass it quickly as separate legislation. The Federal Communications Commission ordered last month that all sets sold in the country as of March 1, 2007, will be able to receive digital signals. Analog television, a 1940s technology, is giving way to better uses of valuable broadcast space. =A9 Copyright 2005 Globe Newspaper Company. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- You can UNSUBSCRIBE from the OpenDTV list in two ways: - Using the UNSUBSCRIBE command in your user configuration settings at FreeLists.org - By sending a message to: opendtv-request@xxxxxxxxxxxxx with the word unsubscribe in the subject line.