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Comment Re:Screw the protesters (Score 1) 334

How embarrassing... corrected by an AC. I did my research this time. The 700 MHz spectrum, which includes UHF TV channels 52-69 has been auctioned off to new licensees. Two caveats... only Full Power TV stations must cease broadcasting in this spectrum. Low Power TV stations and Translator stations don't have to stop. Theses stations have not yet been awarded digital channels. (Of course, they may never be awarded them.) So it is unclear how this will be resolved. Second, most of the Full Power stations don't operate in this spectrum anyway.

Aside from that I don't mind that wireless companies will be inconvenienced. Of course, they'll probably use this as an excuse to raise SMS fees again.

Comment Re:Many stations switchin anyway... (Score 1) 334

No doubt; Powering both a digital and analog station costs a station a lot in electricity. But when the sweeps period comes around (it was moved to March because of the first transition deadline), a 6% or greater decline in viewership is not going to be good for their revenues either. TV ad revenues are way down in this economy. There is plenty of ad inventory (a supply problem) and advertisers aren't going to pay for eyes that aren't there. Sometimes, you have to spend a little money to make some.

Comment Re:Confusion (Score 1) 334

Statistics can be confusing. You point out that 94% of the population comprehends. I don't believe that is true. I believe 94% may be ready for the transition, but that certainly doesn't mean they comprehend. A number of studies and surveys indicate that there a major misconceptions among broad segments of the population.

In fact, depending on your source, around 13% of the population watch TV over-the-air. The 6% that are not ready are a subset of the OTA population. The other 87% have cable or satellite and are unaffected. So, in effect, our results are very poor. A little over half of the affected population is ready for the transition. So after all this time spent preparing and educating, our results are 50/50.

I think many people know that February 17th is important. They may not understand why, but they got the date. Your point that changing everything now will add great amounts of confusion is clearly valid. (IMHO)

Comment Re:Confusion (Score 2, Interesting) 334

I find your insensitivity toward the concerns of the elderly and poor to be troubling. I hope for your sake that you will never find yourself in either demographic. Of course, with our economic outlook, we're all going to be poor. So this will be mean that you will need to die young. The fact remains: you either get old or die.

Access to information is an important part of being in a society. In many areas of the country, high speed internet access and cable are simply not available. Television is the only way for many people to stay connected to society and to remain informed. (Especially when you consider that newspapers are an endangered species.)

TV serves to socialize and aculture peoples into a larger society. It also serves a vital role in the dissemination of potentially life saving information in times of war, natural disaster, or severe weather. If a TV transmitter is struck by an ice storm or bomb or hurricane, one only needs to rebuild the transmitter. If an ice storm takes out miles and miles of cable system lines, the challenge to get viewers back online is much larger. TV serves a vital role during times of local and national emergency. (In other words, we just put Wheel of Fortune on TV until we REALLY need to use it.)

Further, broadcast TV serves foreign language speaking populations, remote populations, children (through education programming), and keeps the elderly company. If your grandparents can't have their TV, you might actually need to go spend time with them. In all seriousness, depression is a big problem among the elderly. I think taking away their TV is a big deal.

Of course, your point that people will be even more confused is right on target. I'm not sure that there is any good solution at this late stage. It's unfortunate that we find ourselves in this predicament.

Comment Re:Screw the protesters (Score 1) 334

I'm sure that my fellow /.ers will correct me if I am wrong, but I don't believe that the frequencies currently being used for analog television transmission have been auctioned yet. So, they don't yet have new owners which could be compensated. Additionally, the new owners of some of this spectrum is going to be local governments to use for first responders. They aren't paying for this spectrum, they're getting it for free...

Further, Congress can't vote the head of the FCC out. In fact, all FCC commissioners are confirmed by the senate. At this time, there is only an acting chairman, as former Chairman Martin was appointed by Bush and resigned when Obama took office. Obama's choice for FCC chairman has not yet been confirmed.

Most importantly, what would getting rid of the FCC chairman accomplish? Congress passed legislation to transition to digital TV and Congress set the first deadline. The FCC is only acting on Congress' wishes.

The question is: When are YOU going to vote out your elected representatives?

Comment Re:Way to waste my tax $$ (Score 1) 334

First, I'm not sure the state of the economy should preclude people (including Congress) from addressing other issues. Obviously it is a priority and something that Congress can and should address, but it's not like they have some magic wand that's going to instantly eliminate our challenges.

Second, how is this a waste of your tax dollars?

Comment A lot of people aren't ready for DTV... (Score 1) 376

Disclaimer: I do not own a converter box, so I cannot speak specifically to the performance of any individual box. But...

As several posters have pointed out, not all boxes are HD capable. HDTV is a subset of the larger digital TV picture and all of the tuners inside of any converter box should be able to tune an HD ATSC over-the-air signal, but not all have HD "outboard". Once the signal is tuned, the resulting signal is rasterized by a GPU which may or not be capable of passing an HD signal to the television set. Or the manufacturer may have chosen to disable that feature to save money on the "spigots" on the back of the box.

Also, perhaps not as clear, but also mentioned by several posters, is that tuner quality/performance varies. Utilizing the same antennae, some converter boxers may not be able to tune as many channels as others. A US-based tuner manufacturer, Microtune, has filed comments with the NTIA. Microtune says based on their private testing of converter boxes approved as part of the federal coupon program, they allege that converter boxes that do not contain Microtune tuners do not meet the performance requirements that the boxes are legally obligated to meet. (reading between the lines: there are government subsidized boxes with poorly designed, cheap, rushed-to-market, overseas chips)

The Community Broadcasters Association is also taking action against the converter box coupon program. Contrary to popular belief, and a PR campaign that oversimplifies the DTV transition, only 20% of the nation's TV stations will cease broadcasting in analog next year. Up to 80% of the stations in the US will continue to broadcast analog after it "goes dark". These stations are classified as Class A (lower power meeting certain broadcast standards), LPTV (low power), and translator stations (used to relay signals to remote areas or over mountainous terrain). They are not required to transition yet, and Congress/FCC have not yet set a date for their transition. Most of these stations have not been assigned channels by the FCC for them to begin broadcasting in digital. The CBA objects to lack of analog tuning capability in these boxes, which they allege is a violation of the "All Channel Receiver Act".

Further, heavily anticipated boxes, such as the one produced by Echostar, will fair to reach retail channels before the first converter box coupons that are being issued will expire. The public does not appear to have a firm grasp on the TV transition, with most understanding that analog TV will end in February (which is factually incorrect), but not understanding what that actually means to them (or even if it will impact them personally).

Obviously, those with cable will be unaffected. But over-the-air TV serves for more than just entertainment. Over-the-air (OTA) TV serves small communities, minorities, low-income earners, those living in areas without cables, and foreign-language speakers. And these are the people least likely to understand the transition, which ironically, being the ones most affected by it.

The real benefit to having a strong OTA industry across this country is for national security. OTA TV can still be broadcasting when the cable and power is out. And, in the unfortunate scenario that our homeland is a warzone, OTA TV towers can move and be more rapidly rebuilt after destruction. OTA TV serves as a critical part of our nation's emergency preparedness - whether tornado or terrorist.

It looks like a lot of people aren't ready for DTV - and not all of them are viewers.

Personally, I watch OTA TV and don't waste my money on cable (you can watch South Park and The Daily Show online for free and Netflix fills in the gaps). But I still haven't figured out which converter box is for me. I'm not sure that the coupons offered in the NTIA program cover any converter boxes that I really want to get.

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