With the recent news that the Digital TV coupon program has run out of money, the incoming administration is worried that many Americans will not be ready for the February 17, 2009 analog shutout and wants the date moved back.
“The incoming administration is pushing for a delay in part because the Commerce Department has run out of money for the coupons that subsidize digital TV converter boxes for consumers”, in a letter obtained by the Associated Press. “People who don’t have cable or satellite TV or a new TV with a digital tuner will need the converter boxes to keep their analog TVs working.”
The digital transition needs to be delayed, mainly because of logistical reasons and not for financial reasons as the coupon program was originally stated to be a first come, first service basis.
The digital transition needs to be delayed because people are absolutely confused about the analog cut off. People don’t know that if they have cable or satellite, they do not need to worry about the digital transition. Only those that get TV reception from an antenna should apply for the program.
More importantly, the transition should be delayed mainly because of reception problems. Digital signals are weaker than analog signals because the signals are in a higher spectrum and can’t penetrate walls, causing main to get outdoor antennas that are not part of the coupon program.
Another problem is how much power is used for digital transmission. As of now, many TV stations send 90% of their transmission power to analog, the remaining goes to digital. If you can’t get digital signals this problem should be solved on February 17 when digital signals goes to full power. Since digital signals are weaker than analog, those that live in mountains will experience problems getting reception. I wouldn’t be surprise if the bulk of the problems related to digital reception come from mountainous regions like Colorado and West Virginia.
So instead of a full shutdown on February 17, just expand to a rolling shutdown starting with cities that have a high percentage of those that are ready for digital to those that have nightmarish reception problems like San Francisco.
Then again, since LCD TVs were big ticket items over the holidays, don’t expect the digital date to change. Add in AT&T and those that paid billions of dollars in analog TV spectrum will make sure those analog TV stations go dark on February 17.