Why Delay Digital?

The transition to digital broadcasting reminds me a bit of that 20-page paper I had to write for my wester civilization class in college - I knew all semester when it was due, but I still spent that final weekend, surrounded by  sea of books, researching and writing to meet the deadline.


The Feb. 17th deadline for the transition to digital broadcasting is approaching, and rather than the procrastinators risking an "F" - or, in this case, blank TV screens - it's looking like Congress will reward them with a reprieve. The U.S. Senate Monday night approved a four-month delay for ceasing analog broadcasting. The House was expected to vote as early as Tuesday. Yahoo.com had a good article about it - http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090127/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/digital_transition_delay.


The argument for the delay is that many people simple aren't ready. They also point out the government program providing coupons for converter boxes ran out of money, with 2.6 million requests still pending. If the deadline is delayed, is there any guarantee they'll come up with more funding to meet those requests?


That's partly why I wonder what good the delay really will do. You may not realize that this transition was to have happened several years ago, but, realizing the huge effort involved, the government put it on a slower timetable. It wasn't just consumers. Broadcasters have invested millions of dollars in the new equipment necessary to send the digital signal. Currently, they're also incurring the additional expense of sending two signals - the new digital and the analog, which continues until the transition is complete. One representative says a four-month delay in the transition will cost public broadcasters an additional $22 million. In tough economic times, the additional expense, coupled with the required investments, has been tough on a lot of companies.


Aside from financial, what sort of push will it take for consumers who haven't already acted to take action? The broadcast industry launched a massive educational campaign more than a year ago. You've seen the public service announcements. Plus, our engineers have been answering ever phone call and message with questions and concerns. Of course, these didn't start really rolling in until the deadline started getting closer. Sometimes, it takes the realization of the end to spur one to action. I'm guilty of this myself. I receive only an over-the-air signal in my home and my televisions dated back to my college days! I've had to hook up converter boxes, play with antenna positions and rescan like many others.


Let's also consider where that four-month extension puts us on the calendar - June. What type of weather hits Kansas in June? People in Manhattan and Chapman don't have to go too far back to know first-hand. A four-month delay puts the new transition day squarely in storm season. While no time of year is ideal to have a problem with your TV signal, I wouldn't want that risk to be increased at the same time a tornado could be brewing down the road.


The change is going to happen, whether we like it or not. The federal government has mandated it to free up space in the spectrum for commercial communications ventures (i.e. those fancy phones with all the internet and video capabilities so many people love!) and for emergency communications. I'm curious on your thoughts - should the government stick to its guns on the deadline or do we continue to let it slide. And if we let it slide, for how long?


By the way, if you have questions about the DTV transition, check out www.dtvanswers.com or www.dtv2009.com.



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