July 12, 2005 4:42 PM PDT

Digital TV changeover suggested for 2009

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signals at the source, or "head-end," so that the conversion to analog happens along the cable wires and no conversion box is necessary.

"Give us the flexibility to down-convert," said Kyle McSlarrow, CEO of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, and the transition will be "seamless." Patrick Knorr, vice chairman of the American Cable Association, which represents smaller companies, estimated that the upgrade would cost $4,500 per head-end for the company and nothing extra for the subscriber.

But broadcasters don't like the idea of down-conversion, because they fear cable companies will use it to reduce the quality of local broadcast channels or drop certain channels entirely. They want Congress to require that cable companies transmit all of their channels' streams, not simply the analog ones, which current law requires.

"If these channels are not reaching cable and satellite subscribers, Telemundo and other Spanish language broadcasters will be unable to attract sufficient advertisers," testified Manuel Abud, vice president and general manager of KVEA-TV in Los Angeles, on behalf of the Spanish language network Telemundo.

Cable companies, in return, argue that meeting the broadcasters' demands would occupy space on their frequencies that could have been used to host other technologies such as high-speed links or voice over Internet protocol.

On the other side of the coin, panelists touted the benefits of freeing up the analog spectrum for emergency personnel and new broadband technology.

Harlin McEwen, chairman of the Association of Chiefs of Police's communications and technology committee, said access to the analog spectrum was critical to "relieve congestion" on the frequencies currently used by first responders.

Others looked forward to using the spectrum to provide wireless broadband, because signals on the 700 MHz frequency have the potential to travel farther and in a straighter line. "You can go out and build a rural broadband network at one-third the cost if you go into the TV band," Calabrese, of the New America Foundation, said.

Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, released a statement on Tuesday announcing that later this week, she will introduce a bill called the Low Power Digital Television Transition Assistance Act, which will focus on "giving translator and low power analog stations more time to transition, along with grants to ease the cost."

In the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, pledged in a statement to work with the Senate to approve legislation this year: "Establishing a firm deadline will help ensure that police and firefighters meet their critical communications needs, that consumers receive the benefits of next-generation wireless broadband services and that Congress further reduces the deficit."

No draft bill for the digital television transition has surfaced yet.

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22 comments

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It's always about money.
Emergency channels, right. Couldn't just require the tiny ratio of emergency radios to switch to digital spectrum, could we?

Money to line legislator pockets.
Money for the FCC's spectrum auctions.
Money for TV and converter manufacturers.
Money for the sundry broadcast & media interests who get to hike fees for mandatory digital service.
And of course, money for the landfills when they find themselves inundated with millions of analog sets.
What else did I miss?

A round of applause for our representatives! Makes the world go round.
Posted by (22 comments )
Reply Link Flag
one more
Money for the Cable company from people switching to not have to have a converter on each TV.
Posted by feedbackuser5 (25 comments )
Link Flag
Guessing games
And just how much could it cost, anyway, for a Congressional committee to go out and hire a researcher or polling company to get an answer to the question about how many people are using off-the-air broadcasts? Or how many emergency lines exist or would be needed? Are we going to decide these things with guesses? And aren't there a lot of "official" wavelengths that aren't being heavily used at the moment within the continental US (military, marine vhf) that could be pressed into service for emergency responders? Does anyone know?
Posted by Razzl (1318 comments )
Link Flag
Bad idea
I think this is not a good thing to do because I have lived on broadcast over the air. Also how are older people who have 20+ year old TVs going to choose to get a new TV just because there old one forced by the goverment to be considered to be obsolete. I have a 2.3' handheld TV that is designed only for analog signals to go over the airways. I also have a AM/FM/TV radio that requires over the air signals. At my barbershop relay soley on analog signals for there TV because the Cable and Satellite charge them for a commerical fee that is dubble what you would pay for cable/satellite for your home. How will the people who relay on free TV be able to afford a converter. Lastly, will the be pushing for the Radio next?
Posted by feedbackuser5 (25 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Just remember what you did....
... when TV came along. That was a big change in your life
operations, but you made it successfully. Sounds like it's about
time to give the old TV's to Goodwill and go see what has
happened since you bought them. TV isn't your mother's Dumont
anymore. The world always changes- it's your choice to get left
behind.
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Link Flag
Not all that Bad
It will be painful, annoying, and somewhat wasteful but it must be done. Our current TV standard is well over 50 yrs old. This is one time I think the government has it right. Of course it has ulterior motives but this technology needs a deadline so everybody can move forward. The idea of a $50 converter box is not that bad and for the majority of Americans not a major expense. Currently these DTV receivers sell for about $249.99. Right around the price of a Playstation and XBOX when they were introduced. Transitions like this are tough but the payoff more than makes up for it. Anybody remember the transition to MTS Stereo TV (mid to late 1980s). Most people didnt even notice the change over. All TVs support it right out of the box now and most network programming is in Dolby Digital 5.1 or Stereo. Dont forget that you will still have free over the air (Terrestrial ) HDTV broadcasts available. I have HD-Cable and Im still planning to put an antenna on the roof of my home to receive all the available Digital channels in my area. If all you want is local channels you DONT NEED CABLE. There are indoor antenna options as well. I watched the HDTV broadcast of the All-Star game last night using an indoor antenna in my basement. I thought the over the air digital signal looked better than the one my HD-Cable box was producing. Once a hard deadline is set TV manufactures will produce more affordable sets and converters that are digital and stop charging the premium prices they are now. As far as waste is concerned if a lot of 10-20 year old TVs find their way to the dump it still wont be as bad as the problem we face from PCs being thrown out about every 3-5 yrs. Usually after a new version of windows hits the streets perfectly good computers are discarded as it is cheaper in some companies to get new ones than to upgrade the current systems. All in all you cant complain about this change you only have to do it every 50 years.
Posted by Captain-Atari (80 comments )
Link Flag
Isn't the change
also going to enable the network providers to
automatically monitor viewing habits, due to a link which
transmits data both ways?
It's not only Good-by to analogue, but also to privacy and civil
liberties.
Posted by Tui Pohutukawa (366 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Not Exactly
From what I understand, Digital TV broadcasting just means the TV broadcasts are sent in a digital form, instead of as a constantly varying analog signal. It's like the digital cell phones vs. analog cell phones difference---the digital can support a lot more channels using the same space.

Cable and Satellite already can monitor what people watch, if they want to do so.
Posted by bluemist9999 (1020 comments )
Link Flag
The fastest way to get there...
...is to start producing inexpensive DVRs that can receive the digital TV signal and output an analog TV signal (downsampled, if necessary). VCRs have moving parts, so they get replaced more often than TVs and cost less than a new digital tuner equipped TV. Not to mention that people will still want to record TV shows for time-shifted viewing after the analog cut-off. The digital-to-analog DVR is the killer app. to get everyone moved over to digital TV quickly.
Posted by C.Schroeder (126 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I agree, Hollywood may not.
This is exactly what I've been telling people. The only problem is that the content recycling companies are trying to prevent people from archiving high-definition programs. In fact, I believe that they would also like to do away with time-shifting as well, but they realize that that would be going too far. This is what the whole broadcast flag nonsense is all about. Although the court knocked down the broadcast flag, it will take constant vigilance to prevent some congresscritter from sneaking it into some must-pass bill. This is probably why the market will never see a device that will record high-definition television on the next generation DVD (be it Blu-ray or HD-DVD).

To speed the adoption of digital television, a 3-tiered approach is what is needed, similar to what follows:

1. A cutoff date after which all televisions must include a digital tuner. It is ridiculous that with the analog broadcast cutoff date looming just a few years away that Best Buy and Wal-Mart are still selling analog-only televisions.

2. A cutoff date for all broadcasters to broadcast in digital (while simulcasting in analog). After this date, new televisions will no longer require an analog tuner.

3. A cutoff date for analog broadcasts.

I think that this or a similar approach would allow for a smoother transition to all-digital broadcasting.

As for me, I am one of those people that still watches over-the-air broadcast television. I have no interest in getting cable or sattelite. Both of these options are ridiculously overpriced in this day and age, and while I could easily afford it, I do not believe that the content is worth what they are charging. Later this month, I plan to build my own DVR (MythTV) with digital tuners. It will function as you described, the only thing is that it will be more expensive than what you are talking about. At first, I will use it with my analog television, but in the future I will likely purchase a high-definition monitor.
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Link Flag
Big blow to non-cable company PVR users
This hurts the people who are using PVRs that don't come from their cable company.

Although CableCard is FCC mandated, the current implementation stinks. There is currently no CableCard solution for PCs yet (although Microsoft is working on it for the next edition of Media Center).

But, for those of us that use freeware solutions (I use MythTV on Linux), I can't make the transition to digital (cleanly). There are no PCI cards that support CableCard (that I'm aware of), and when they do come, who's going to make the specifications available so that Linux can use them? My only solution is to have three set-top boxes that I change channels with an IR blaster (or if I'm lucky, Firewire). Why three? Because I have three analog tuners at the moment.

TiVo owners are equally screwed as well until their CableCard solutions come out.

The cable operators are really pushing for this because they want to lock up their content. Part of this locking means that PVRs won't be able to do anything with the data at all, so you can't transfer to a PC, skip commercials, or anything else that you can currently do with an unencrypted analog signal.

-- Joe
Posted by Joe Votour (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
just do it already
who cares about all these dinosaurs whining about having to change. life moves on, get a convertor or get lost. I wish they'd make that law banning the sale of analog tvs, make the push universal, driving down prices and giving us better quality. I understand in some situations it will be an annoyance but overall the move to digital is a must. So let's just do it already!
Posted by hugh dunnit (35 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Great idea
Let's start thinking of all the things that could be banned because we'd like to transition to better technology. I think we should start with banning non-Hybrid cars! Not only new ones for sale, but all the old ones still on the road. We'll give you a thousand bucks or so to help with the transition, of course.

On the other hand, in some ways DTV is NOT better technology. There is, and will not be, a digital version of that 2.5" portable TV mentioned earlier. Not with ATSC at any rate; you'll have to get that kind of thing via a subscripion from your cell phone company, for instance.
Posted by fredmenace (159 comments )
Link Flag
who cares about all the selfish people out there that are never happy with what they have. Always have to have more or better or what someone else has. We aren't dinosaurs, we are unselfish people who are even grateful to have the luxury of a tv. My tv as I am sure millions of tv's out there have perfect pictures. Why fix what isn't broke, and why should we have to pay because of others selfishness. They want us to have this digital crap, then let the government go and flip the bill, and all you materialistic idiots learn to be satisfied with what you've had for how many years now. Have you ever had any need for any kind of new tv...No!! We've all made it all these years. You've watched your shows, your sports...whatever. Digital tv is not a must and to most of us it's definitely not a need either. For those of you who want it, go for it, but those of us that don't want it, we should be left to our choice and keep the tv's that have been faithful to us all these years. The government screws us up enough and enough is enough. We should have a choice and it should be respected and if not, then you morons want this, then as I said earlier, you all flip the bill. Did you want a ban on analog tv's when you've watched your sporting events over the years. Did you not get to watch your Superbowls, and Stanley Cups, etc. Point is there never has been a problem and there still isn't, so why bother. Maybe some things need changing, but this does not. To me, anyhow, change stinks. Everyone knows nothing these days compares to the way things have been all our lives. For example, homes used to be built with time and care and now they are thrown up in a week. Stupid cell phones are out, but when they die out, where do people resort to...the original phone. Things made in the past have been made to last because people cared and cared that people got their money's worth. Today, people are ripped off right and left with everything and it's disgusting. It'll only get worse, because of the selfish, self serving, materialistic, unhappy people who ruin it for the rest of us who are happy with what we've been given. You must be real unhappy with your modern lives, when you have to resort to material things to make you happy and then what in so many more years, something else comes along and this crap happens all over again with something else? Dinosaurs...maybe, but, we are happy with just plain and simple. This isn't needed...plain and simple.
Posted by peachblush (1 comment )
Link Flag
Except
The transition from mono to stereo sound did not require the purchase of new equipment to receive television. In fact, the transition from black-and-white to color did not require the consumer to purchase new equipment (although the program was broadcast in color, you would see it in black-and-white). Compromises were made to ensure that the old televisions would still be able to receive broadcasts. If your old television from the 1940's still functions, you can in fact still receive broadcast television on it today. After the transition to digital-only broadcast, it will no longer function.
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Let's get our priorities straight
Politicians will not decide when or if analog TV is shut down in this country in favor of digital; that's the FCC's decision to make, and they seem to have made it. The agency now says it will require TV stations to transmit all-digital signals by 2009. Last year the cutoff date for analog broadcasts was December 31, 2006. What next? Will the FCC keep pushing back the cutoff deadline? It wouldn't surprise me if they did. The government works very slowly, so I really do not see digital TV being the standard here for many years to come. At this rate we may not see all-digital television on these shores for maybe another twenty years or more.

The FCC must remember that the nation's economy is currently in very poor shape. Most people today still do not own high-definition wide-screen televisions because they are so expensive ($3,000+ for a 42-inch flat-panel set; even 17 to 23" FP sets cost close to a grand or more). Remember, many people these days are struggling just to make ends meet and simply do not have the money to spend on luxuries such as HDTV. Case in point: I live near Cleveland, Ohio, which is the poorest city in the entire country. I do not know anyone in my area who has an HDTV receiver or even cares about the technology. The television stations in Cleveland are all broadcasting HD signals along with analog, but for the most part I think the digital transmitters, towers, etc. are a waste of money because there simply aren't that many HDTV sets in this area yet. Some day there may be more such receivers in the Cleveland area (and in other parts of the country), but for the time being, those digital signals are, for the most part, going unwatched here.

I don't think all the millions of analog TVs now in use in this country will "go dark" when digital takes hold in 2009 or whenever. There are still far more analog TVs here than digital HD sets, so cable companies will have to make allowances for those millions of sets, either by the use of converter boxes (as I use on my own RCA analog TV, bought new just 5 1/2 years ago) or by converting the digital signals to analog on the cable, thereby eliminating the need for a converter in the first place. Most major cable operators, such as Comcast in my area, have ways to accomodate the millions of analog sets which may well still be in use four years from now. Face facts: People are not going to discard perfectly good analog TV sets just because the FCC will outlaw analog broadcasting after 2009. Personally, I think a better solution would have been for the FCC to require a compatibility standard for HDTV, which would operate the same as compatible color TV does: so that a color signal could be viewed directly on a monochrome set in b&w. Such a compatibility standard for HD television would save consumers the expense of purchasing a new high-definition set when the broadcasting standards change. I think the only reason the FCC specified the current HDTV system, which is absolutely incompatible with ordinary, unmodified analog sets, is so that the agency can make more and more and more money from the auctioning of the old analog channels. That's all this whole analog TV cutoff date monkey business is to me--just another way the FCC has dreamed up to line its own pockets. The analog signals will be outlawed, the old analog TV channels will be freed for use by HDTV stations and public service (or whatever), and the FCC will just be raking in the money from the spectrum auctions, the desires and needs of the general public be darned.
Posted by Jeffhs (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Really!?
I can't believe that 80 million people rely on only an antenna for TV in the U.S. I live in a rural town of 5,000 and I suspect if that number is accurate I should see an antenna on 1 out of every 4 homes here. I don't. Antennas are rare in my town. The FCC should keep the Dec. 2006 deadline for conversion.
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
$50 for a converter box IS a lot when you have to buy several...
I have 5 TV's in my house. $5 * $50 = $250, so YEA, I'd say $50 for converter box is a lot when you have to buy several. I don't think you need to be considering such a program until you have ALL the kinks worked out.
Posted by PCCRomeo (432 comments )
Reply Link Flag
name of digitat radio makers
who make digital radios to recieve former am/fm radios
Posted by sheldon17 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
I wish they would all just make up their minds
Please stop talking about this subject and make up your minds, this is rediculous no one can seem to decide what needs to be done, and its confusing a lot of people, not knowing what we will need to do, find or do something and start with it..geez.. enough is enough.. all you've people have done is complain about this or that having to do with the digital conversations, and the rest of us, are getting more confused as this goes on and on, make up your minds and do something about it once and for all, stop putting it off and putting it off! Why not make people just turn in the tv's they have that are analog ones, for newer ones that are the same size as the one they are turning in, that would save a lot of time, or make the boxes but do something!
Posted by kimberley365 (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
one more way to make us pay
I think it was a Tom Petty song that said something about we
now have to pay for what we used to get for free. Basically, with
this act, free TV is gone forever when you take into conderation
the cost of the converters. I don't have cable. I use an antenna. I
don't care. Call me weird. if it goes away I will not miss it. I
stopped watching baseball on TV years ago--and I was a huge
fan--because I could no longer see any games without paying
for them, either with a premium service, or just a regular
channel on cable.

I'll use the internet, play video games, watch DVDs, or better yet,
read a book or go to the gym. Everyone would be better off
doing that, and would be smarter or healthier for it.

Does anyone really care, truly, about who wins American Idol?
Posted by bedlam6666 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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