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FCC Says No to Obama's DTV Transition

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 20 comments

Obama's transition team wants to push back the date when analog broadcasters switch over to digital, however FCC's chairman rejects the idea.

During CES '09, Federal Communications Commissions chairman and Republican Kevin Martin said that a delay in the upcoming analog-to-digital transition taking place next month might actually cause more confusion, that there are other options to pursue rather than push the transition date back. As reported by The Associate Press, last Thursday, President-elect Barack Obama's transition team requested that Congress not switch off the analog signals just yet, citing that the program ran out of money and currently could not fill the requests of consumers seeking converter box vouchers, thus the need to delay the change.

Martin said Saturday that Congress could pass additional funding, or eliminate the 90-day expiration deadline on the coupons altogether. Over the past few months, broadcasters have heavily advertised the February 17 transition, and many have even scheduled the engineering work to take down the analog antennas and make way for digital coverage.

However, turmoil seems to boil within the FCC, as Democratic FCC commissioner Jonathan Adelstein voiced his understanding of the delay at a CES panel discussion. "This program has been badly mismanaged. It's not ready for prime time," he said. "There are so many elements of the preparation that have not been undertaken ... We don't have program in place in the field to help people who need assistance in their homes. The phone banks are inadequately prepared."

Last week the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) put a "waiting list" into effect after the $1.34 billion in funding quickly depleted. 103,000 requests were immediately added to the list, and those currently on the list will only receive a voucher if one goes unclaimed and expires. The NTIA urged consumers to go out and purchase a converter box for at least one television set, and not wait for a voucher. The NTIA claims that more than 24 million households requested over 46 million coupons.

With constant advertising and online media coverage, consumers facing the turmoil of upgrading current connections to digital may or may not find the postponement confusing. Time is running out, as February 15 looms in the distance and millions of over-the-air viewers may eventually be left in the dark if something isn't done soon. A delay seems appropriate, if not necessary, despite the FCC chairman's reservations.

"I'm concerned about a delay in the sense that if you can solve that issue other ways, a delay has actually the potential to confuse consumers," said Martin. "All of our messaging has been about Feb. 17 — not just ours — the industry's."

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  • 0 Hide
    eklipz330 , January 12, 2009 10:40 PM
    mind my ignorance, but whats the point of moving from analog to digital? is it to free some air traffic or something? or is there more to it?
  • 1 Hide
    Siffy , January 12, 2009 11:48 PM
    http://dtvfacts.com/ should help. Basically UHF and VHF channels that you can pick up with "rabbit ears" are going away. And yes, it's to free up air space. The TV channels are taking up frequency channels, and you can fit more information in a digital channel than an analog channel I believe. They may even be able to place those channels closer together in the spectrum allocated. The benefit to everyone: more useless garbage on TV to wade through when trying to find what you want.
  • 1 Hide
    Tekkamanraiden , January 13, 2009 1:47 AM
    Basically they are intending to sell off the analog broadcast spectrum currently allocated to television.
  • 2 Hide
    tbq , January 13, 2009 3:43 AM
    I doubt the government bought these people the TVs they already own. I don't see why they need to buy them the converter box as well. It's been known for quite a while that the transition was going to take place; if some people are without a functional TV for a while it'll probably be a net gain for society. TV is not a right, and most people probably have better things to do with their time than watching network TV anyway.
  • -4 Hide
    DFGum , January 13, 2009 4:31 AM
    tbqI doubt the government bought these people the TVs they already own. I don't see why they need to buy them the converter box as well. It's been known for quite a while that the transition was going to take place; if some people are without a functional TV for a while it'll probably be a net gain for society. TV is not a right, and most people probably have better things to do with their time than watching network TV anyway.

    By your logic if they stopped producing electricity in 1 years, that makes it ok, even though you JUST bought your electric appliance.
  • 0 Hide
    fuser , January 13, 2009 5:58 AM
    Ditch the rabbit ears and get a real television. Or just ditch television completely.
  • 0 Hide
    ceteras , January 13, 2009 7:50 AM
    DFGumBy your logic if they stopped producing electricity in 1 years, that makes it ok, even though you JUST bought your electric appliance.


    There is no logic in your comparison.
    Electricity is vital, TV programs have a bad effect on you, stop watching!
  • 0 Hide
    curnel_D , January 13, 2009 1:19 PM
    The government needs to quit trying to hold everyone's hand through this. If someone is so out of it in terms of even just this news, it's clear they wont be watching TV in the first place. Just change it for the better, and quit babying the american consumer.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , January 13, 2009 2:23 PM
    I think it's a bad time for many to switch over.
    Many houses in foreclosure,and jobs on the line, make the television really the last investment on many people's mind.

    Though there are few still viewing TV via antenna, (most cable or satellite) for those who do obviously do it for a financial reason (since the reception of tv signals via antenna doesn't cost the user anything save the TV that receives the signal,and a copper wire.

    And,yes, imagine another 100 million houses or so, all of a sudden having a 5-15W device in their home,plugged in 24/7.

    that'd be close to 500million watts hour of added pollution.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , January 13, 2009 2:25 PM
    Correction on my post above, not all will need a digital converter; I believe satellite already is digital, and cable too.
    I roughly estimate 15% of the population still having antenna, so that'd be more like 750.000Watt hour on added electricity.
    That's something!
  • 0 Hide
    zodiacfml , January 13, 2009 3:01 PM
    i say go with the existing plan. indeed, there are other options.
    actually, i see the tv and internet convergence starting only now which i heard 10 or more years ago.
  • 0 Hide
    azgard , January 13, 2009 6:46 PM
    ceterasThere is no logic in your comparison.Electricity is vital, TV programs have a bad effect on you, stop watching!


    Electricity is not vital, people were able to make do quite a while without it. That's not the point though, obviously you have no idea what the real effect of a blackout of this is, the people that are losing Television here are losing access to local channel's and news sources, this is the big concern not garbage like Days of Our Lives. Pull your head out of your rear and you would understand that. Cable TV and Satellite TV will have no issues as you already have a converter box to handle the conversion. Also, they really can't push this back, they already auctioned off the airwaves they have to clear them one way or another.
  • 0 Hide
    trevorvdw , January 13, 2009 7:35 PM
    Obama should reorg the FCC when he takes office.
  • 0 Hide
    m3kt3k , January 13, 2009 7:45 PM
    UMMM its not all about economy for buying a converter. The ex-wifes parents are fairly rich and still use rabbit ears. They dont watch very much tv and spend most of the time traveling and on there boat. Also people that have RV's still use rabbit ears alot. As for electricity UMMM I dont get your argument? We pay for electricity and I like 99.99% of the population dont get govt help paying for it. Over the air signals are FREE. So what is the point you are trying to make again?
  • 0 Hide
    techtre2003 , January 13, 2009 8:20 PM
    I think it's ridiculous for the government to be handing out these coupons at all. We have more and more people losing their jobs and houses everyday in America. But by God lets spend millions of dollars to make sure everyone can still watch TV!

    This is why the U.S. is so messed up. The values and priorities of our government are so backward. I thought Obama was all about "change" and eliminating needless spending. Guess he's just another politician.
  • 0 Hide
    jrabbitb , January 13, 2009 8:42 PM
    "The NTIA claims that more than 24 million households requested over 46 million coupons."

    um, why are we giving out more then 1 per houshold, the money that went to the second should have gone to um, the 100,000+ people who still havnt gotten their first one. or is it that they are asking for a second? good question, how many of the 100,000+ already got one coupon?

    CONGRESS: (or whoever) make all coupons redemable up to 30 days past the switch. to hell with anyone who doesnt have one already, they can get a coupon 30 days after the switch if people who thought ahead enough to get one dont use them. anyone who is on "rabbit ears" doesnt care that much anyway. i know keeping them connected is for the emergency broadcast system or whatev, but that is what radio is for. (and only do this because we've already started the retarded idea that everyone needs their idiot box)


    To those that dont know the airwaves that are being freed up have already been sold and some of the space has been resurved for open devices because the bidding got above some $$ value that was preset.
  • 0 Hide
    jrabbitb , January 13, 2009 8:48 PM
    for more info on the sale, the bulk is sold, some is still up for grabs. http://www.reuters.com/article/technologyNews/idUSTRE4AP6J820081126
  • 0 Hide
    tbq , January 13, 2009 10:34 PM
    DFGumBy your logic if they stopped producing electricity in 1 years, that makes it ok, even though you JUST bought your electric appliance.


    The difference is that TV is not essential to maintaining our modern standard of living. Just because one source of TV signal (analog antenna) is being cut off, doesn't mean that all TVs will cease to function without the converter box. The two primary groups of people who primarily watch TV over the air are the people who cannot justify the cost of subscribing to cable or satellite and the people who live in areas where terrain prohibits the option of using cable or satellite. The transition to digital TV broadcasting started in 1996, so 13 years should have been enough time for people to get ready. As they’ve also been playing commercials on TV for months about the switch, the only people who would be completely clueless as to why their TVs don’t work on Feb 17 are the ones who really don’t watch much TV in the first place.

    But, like your comparison of TV to electricity, there are multiple sources of electricity. If the government mandated that on a particular day 15 years from now that a particular type of power plant will be shut down forever, there would be enough warning to replace them with something else. It would not affect the day to day lives of the average person.
  • 0 Hide
    absolom7691 , February 6, 2009 9:44 PM
    ProDigit80Correction on my post above, not all will need a digital converter; I believe satellite already is digital, and cable too.I roughly estimate 15% of the population still having antenna, so that'd be more like 750.000Watt hour on added electricity.That's something!


    But you are not thinking of how many millions of watts are used to broadcast in analog. With one digital transmitter, a broadcaster can send out several channels simulatniously. You simply cannot do that with analog. I also believe analog uses more power to cover the same distance. Also, if someone is in financial trouble, maybe television is the first thing they should be worried about. The internet is free at many locations (libraries and schools). The news you get from newsprint (which is mostly recycled now, if we are talking about the environment) and the news you can get from the internet is far more verbose than anything that the mass media gleans from The AP. Maybe a few million homes being "in the dark" might stimulate the economy again instead of having the TV to pipe in the mass media's fearmongering about how bad things are and we should "be afraid to spend." Broadcasting is a private business and they are now going to spend millions broadcasting in both formats for another few months now. There is no restriction on turning off the analog, there is only a time limit for how long (which has now been extended) If I were a broadcaster, I would turn off my analog transmitters on the 17th anyway, they have that freedom. Let's not waste all the power to cater to those who missed the bus, for whatever reason.
  • 0 Hide
    absolom7691 , February 6, 2009 9:46 PM
    absolom7691Also, if someone is in financial trouble, maybe television is the first thing they should be worried about.



    Correction. *Isn't the first thing they should be worried about.