Why am I thanking the House for their sane and reasonable approach to this issue?
For starters, lots of folks have asked for my opinion on the DTV delay. I've been holding off on saying anything publicly, but my cousin tagged me with this question Monday night on Facebook, so I figured I'd finally jump in. Here was my character-limited (by Facebook's number of letters, not by personality) reply...
And, here's my additional $.03...
But ya gotta start somewhere.
If you never step off the curb, you'll never cross the street. Sure, you might get hit by a bus, but that's why our parents teach us to look both ways first.
We've been looking both ways for way too long, my friends--we need to cross the street.
The reluctance to step off the analog DTV curb isn't helping anyone, despite what the Senate would like you to believe.
Shall we consider who would be harmed by this four-month charade?
Let's start with broadcasters. The need to continue supporting dual analog and digital transmissions (called simulcasting) is an additional four-month expense that I doubt most TV stations budgeted for, although the wisest ones likely planned for this very outcome. I realize that many consumers don't possess much sympathy for broadcasters, believing that to deep-pocketed folks like ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC, the expense of switching to digital is a drop in the ocean--despite the fact that a lot of mom and pop shops in mid-sized and smaller DMAs have had to increase their budgets by alarming amounts, in some cases doubling (or more) typical annual expenditures.
Next, we move to first responders. Public safety groups are receiving 24 MHz of spectrum as part of the digital transition. Why? So that nationally, first responders can communicate on the same spectrum band. You might be surprised that this capability doesn't exist today, but it doesn't. With a delay, public safety users like police and fire departments will suffer a further four-month hiccup in their attempt to provide more efficient and effective first response. First responders oppose a delay. You should too--your very life may be at stake.
How about the environment? You might think that the cutover from analog to digital wouldn't have an impact on the environment, but you'd be wrong--all the gear required to maintain and power simulcasting consumes a tremendous amount of electricity, either directly or indirectly.
You heard it here first--the DTV delay is anti-green.
Finally, consumers lose. As Nielsen notes, the number of U.S. households unprepared for the DTV switch dropped more than a full percentage point in the four-week period ending 1/18/09. Across the board, every demographic measured at least a 9/10ths of a percentage point increase in readiness--white, black, hispanic, Asian, old, young. Congress, this is what we call progess; thankfully, the House appears to understand the meaning of that word. The Consumer Electronics Association, the National Association of Broadcasters, and many other organizations heeded Congress' call to more heavily promote the DTV switchover as the calendar crept up on 2/17/09. They've done a yeoman's job of getting the word out, via television and radio public service announcements, via newspapers, via weekly and monthly periodicals, and even via the CEA's innovative YouTube contest. Everyone is eager to make this cutover.
We're ready. That's what we're here to tell you. The small percentage of U.S. consumers who still rely on over-the-air programming are ready for a better TV experience. Broadcasters are ready to deliver just that, along with looking forward to turning off their simulcasting albatross. First responders are eager to have better methods of interoperable communications. Consumers who've already acquired their DTV converter boxes are ready to go; those who haven't won't be spurred into action until the analog spigot is turned off.
When that spigot is turned off, consumers who haven't made the move from analog to digital will have the impetus to do something--request their pair of $40 rebate coupons, use coupons they already have, or purchase a new television with a built-in digital tuner. If the Senate really wants to do something beneficial, they can work with their House counterparts to immediately pass a bill providing two items: emergency funding for additional rebate coupons, and a provision for those with expired coupons to re-apply.
That's a bill I'd support wholeheartedly.
Let me reiterate this a final time. A delay serves no one's purpose. The alarmists who are yammering about a 2/17/09 cutover being a train wreck would better focus their energy on convincing Congress to pass an emergency bill with my two suggested items--funding and re-application--rather than wasting their breath on further attempting a delay.
If you agree, support your local first responders and broadcasters by forwarding this page (with a conveniently shorter URL: http://tinyurl.com/heycoopdtv) to your Senators and Representatives. Let them know that you're ready for America to take the final small step in a journey launched more than two decades ago. Babies conceived at the same time as ACATS are old enough to drink, more than 21 years on.
Let's stop rewarding inertia. It's time for DTV to have its champagne toast.