[opendtv] Re: Toward digital TV

  • From: "Manfredi, Albert E" <albert.e.manfredi@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 14 Dec 2005 11:30:45 -0500

A couple of comments.

1. The 2006 date was not at all a joke, back in 1997 when it
was set, and it could easily have been met. It would simply
have required Congress and the FCC to do two years ago what
they have done now. Which is, (a) include cable and satellite
in the 85 percent figure of households not dependent solely
on analog OTA TV, and (b) set a date when all TV appliances
sold would require digital reception capability. Anything
short of that would only cause any analog shutoff to drag
out ad infinitum.

2. How odd that they consider an analog tier retained on
cable systems to be "consumer-unfriendly." As if somehow,
forcing people to buy HD sets is "consumer-friendly." Maybe
they think that any set which receives an HD signal gets to
display HD images, and that none of this should cost the
consumer anything.



The Boston Globe

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.

Copyright 2005 Globe Newspaper Company.
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