Tuli Can't Stop Talking

These are just my thoughts on contemporary issues and an attempt to open up a dialogue.

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Location: New York City

A citizen who cares deeply about the United States Constitution and the Rule of Law.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Disenfranchisement of Millions of TV Viewers!

My personal feeling is that this switch to Hi-Def from Analog, and the way the Bush Administration has carried it out, is about shutting out millions of TV viewers and their access to any information available (such as it is.) It will make the MSM TV information roadway less available to a large segment of the American Electorate. In large swaths of this country there is no cable and analogue is what is available. This is based on availability and economy.

I live in Manhattan and the only TV reception is cable. I tried for many years, due to my economic bottom line, to deal with only analogue and though we got some PBS for the most part we didn’t have any MSM (okay, so that isn’t so bad) reception. My son got us hooked up to cable several years ago and then had it up-graded to digital recently. The digital signal isn’t perfect as we are in the flight path of both Kennedy and LaGuardia which makes the signal breakup constantly. That said, we are in better shape than most. What is important is that it is expensive. I have an overall low nut so I can afford to splurge, and it is a splurge, on digital and high-speed internet at least for now. But many folks out there can’t afford this “transition.”

Shortly before his inauguration, President Obama asked Congress to delay the deadline. Last month, Nielsen, which tracks TV audiences, found that more than 6.5 million households were not ready for the transition. Many senior citizens and non-English speakers are in that group. More than 3.7 million consumers are on a waiting list to receive coupons…


In 2005, Congress passed the Digital Television Transition and Public Safety Act, mandating that broadcasters vacate their analog airwaves to make room for first responders and commercial wireless companies who said they needed more capacity over the air.

Telecom companies such as Verizon Wireless and AT&T bought licenses for soon-to-be-vacated airwaves, raising more than $19 billion for the government. Broadcasters also expected the higher-quality digital programs to help them compete with cable and satellite providers.

Concern that the most vulnerable consumers were likely to own analog televisions led to the creation of a $1.34 billion coupon program to help pay for the converter boxes. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration, an arm of the Commerce Department, was put in charge of the effort.

More than 47 million coupons have been sent out, but the program confused consumers, requiring them to use the coupons during a certain time period. Because of the program's budget shortfall, new coupons cannot be mailed out until already-issued ones reach their 90-day expiration date.

Last month Obama's call for a delay was echoed by consumer groups, some broadcast networks and Democratic lawmakers. AT&T and Verizon Wireless said that a one-time delay of the transition would not hurt their plans to use the airwaves for their own advanced wireless products.

But Qualcomm opposed the delay. The company paid more than $500 million to access the digital airwaves, said Qualcomm chief operating officer Len J. Lauer. "It breaks an agreement we had with the government."

Republicans who opposed the bill argued that postponing the switch would undermine plans by public safety agencies to use the freed airwaves. Harlin McEwen of the International Association of Chiefs of Police said "it would be better if there wasn't any delay for public safety because there are agencies planning to use that spectrum on Feb. 18."

Public safety agencies can use airwaves as they become available.

"I'm so disappointed," said Wayne McBride, deputy director for public safety communications in Prince George's County. The new deadline will delay the county's plans to use the old analog airwaves to create an emergency response radio system for police and firefighters that will be interoperable with systems in surrounding counties. The county has spent $76 million to buy equipment and build the system but cannot start testing it until broadcasters vacate the airwaves, McBride said.

Some broadcasters say the delay will be expensive. Christopher Lane, vice president of technology and engineering at WETA, Washington's public television station, said keeping the analog signal will cost $20,000 a month. "But we can't be the only broadcaster in the market not to be broadcasting. It puts us at too much of a disadvantage."

I guess I shouldn’t be shocked that the Bush Administration f’d this up as well. Is there anything that they touched that isn’t screwed-up? It isn’t as if they didn’t have enough time to get this right without disenfranchising millions of Americans and to have appropriated the necessarily genuine financial support for this transition (see Iraq War.) Is it that the mostly poor, non-English and elderly vote against the Republican interest? I guess that I need to put my aluminum hat on tighter.

I am not saying, I am just saying!


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