09 January 2009

What Digital TV Conversion?

Stop me if you've heard this before; in 2005, the federal government mandated that all major television broadcasters will convert from analog broadcast to digital broadcast. This conversion was delayed and delayed again until a deadline of February 17, 2009 was established. Once the deadline was established a massive advertising campaign aimed at educating the citizenry on the conversion was launched. In addition, the federal government set aside about $1.3 billion (that's right...BILLION) dollars to provide subsidized coupons to purchase digital to analog converters.

So, the coupons were made available and there were commercials on every channel talking about the conversion, how it would affect you and what you needed to do to prepare. To sum up the advertising campaign it was broadcast repeatedly that if you had an older television but had cable or satellite tv, you were fine. If you had a newer television with a digital tuner built in (which is just about any television made with a cable ready jack) you were fine. If you had an older television and you were using an antenna (meaning you don't have cable or satellite) then you needed to purchase a converter box and you could get a coupon so you wouldn't have to pay full price.

The beauty of the conversion was in the sheer bandwidth of frequencies that was going to be freed up and auctioned to cellular service providers and the like. How this works is an analog television signal is broadcast on a set frequency, let's use 88 Mhz as an example here; frequencies are measured in hertz (hz), a hertz is one complete cycle, Mhz is Mega hertz which means 1 million cycles per second. Okay, so an analog signal broadcasts at 88 Mhz; well a digital signal will broadcast at 88.1 Mhz and that is the difference between an analog and digital signal broadcast. What that does is free up massive amounts of analog frequencies that cellular providers desperately need in order to expand their service areas and provide better service; imagine being able to go anywhere in this vast country and ALWAYS have a cell signal...sweet huh? No more roaming charges or dropped calls, always a signal no matter where you are. The sheer beauty of this conversion was the average person on the street did not need to know all the technical stuff; all the average person needed to know was how old their tv was and if they had cable or satellite...not too hard is it? I mean, is it really that hard to look at the back of your tv to see if you have the cable jack or an antenna jack? Is it really that hard to determine whether you get your tv signals from an antenna or a cable? Well, evidently it really is that hard. I was listening to NPR in my pickup on the way home from work today (yes, I am a geek, I listen to National Public Radio) and could not believe my ears. Here was this "consumer advocate" talking on the show All Things Considered about the poor unfortunate people out there who have done nothing to prepare for the upcoming conversion...nothing.

He whined on and on about how they did not purchase a converter box and now there weren't any more coupons available. This guy says there are three million households...3 MILLION...who are not prepared and they are evidently whining about it. People that are too dumb or just too lazy to do this are nto prepared and they are crying loud and clear in DC. So what is happening now? Well consumer advocacy groups and even the President-elect are calling for yet another delay for the conversion...all for these people who cannot be thought of as anything but DUMB STUPID IGNORANT jerks. Now, back when it became public knowledge this conversion was going to take place, I stated that no matter how much advertising, no matter how many Public Service Announcements, no matter how many coupons were issued, there would be people in this country whining about how they didn't know or they were confused or they couldn't get a coupon.

So what's going to happen? It's anybody's guess right now but the losers will be all of us who prepared ahead of time. Progress, meaning expanded cell frequencies and much improved cell service not to mention a vastly improved and more efficient broadcasting medium, is put on hold so the "guvmint" (meaning us taxpayers) can cater to the whims of the stupid, lazy, ignorant fools in this country. There is only one question to be asked here...WHY? Why is it everybody has to wait for these people? Isn't this taking the "equal opportunity" thing just a tad too far? It is television, it is not something vital to survival of the species. The good things that will come out of the conversion vastly outweigh these possible negatives. Plus, at least for me, this is proof of concept for the story of the grasshopper and the ant. Most of you out there know that little fable whose moral is those who prepare are the ones who will prosper.

So again, why do we have to wait for these few morons? I mean come on, the equality argument only goes so far fellas. Equality means everybody has the same opportunities and, despite our many flaws, this country affords everyone the same opportunites; when people do not take advantage of the opportunities afforded them and then complain it is someone else's fault, then it is not about equality. No, now it becomes you are a lazy whiner who wants everybody else to do it for you...oh wait, we've had that for decades now...my bad, carry on.

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