back to article US Congress kills digital TV delay

The US House of Representatives today voted down a bill that would have delayed the States' changeover from analog to digital television broadcasting, a move that could shut down the boob tube for an estimated 6.5 million Americans in three weeks. If the vote stands, the switchover will take place on February 17 as originally …

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Damn!

They finally did what I told 'em to do.

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Paris Hilton

No excuses for consumers or stations

Seriously. Consumers have had how many years to prepare for this change? And TV stations have had how many years to get the bugs worked out? If there are so many problems with the change-over, sounds like an economic stimulus to me: engineers who can make the digital signals work will have plenty of work to do and money to spend. TV stations who cannot make it work and cannot afford to make it work will have market share handed over to competitors, or create a market favorable to new competition.

And any station not reporting on what band it will be broadcasting should be soundly smacked in the bottom. TV stations should have been advertising this change over the air for months by now, and should have well-informed viewers.

Paris, working for years to get the bugs out.

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@Alan W. Rateliff,

UM TV stations have been telling people about this for the last year at least.

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My local tv station is not ready

Last night my local tv station said they need a bigger tower and bigger power station. They apologize in advance because many may not able to get their station...

Why rush to shut down analog... ?

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The end of television as we know it . . . & about time!

My fond hope is that on February 18 many millions of Americans will find themselves rudely awakened to a life without television, and that some significant percentage will never go back. You may say I'm a dreamer, but . . .

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This is laughable

Anyone that is not prepared for this is either retarded or doesn't know what a TV is.

This has been so well publicized that anyone the loses their favorite show on TV Feb 17 deserves what they get.

Sheesh

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Go

A resident of Uncle-Scam Land comments...

Uh, they ought to kill the delay. It's only been advertised for two years.

Furthermore, its a federal outlay of money to foreign manufacturers - I bet that fewer than 1% of all "approved for discount" set top boxes are made with US labor - notwithstanding the headquarters of the brand's address someplace in Oklahoma, Delaware, or Colorado.

It's Democrat tradition to be "inclusive" and they are taking that too far - as well as wasting valuable time. Two words for any 'tard that hasn't figured out that the analog switch-off is coming: Library Card. And another one when they whine about emergencies and whatnot: Radio.

Democrats (who I generally vote for/with) allege that the delay is necessary so as not to "disenfranchise" the 6.5 million people who have no box. (They don't break down the number as to male vs. female so the impact of the absence or presence of a cough... CONVERTER box is not yet known.)

Disenfranchise is Democrat code for "possibly lose the vote of."

Tell ya what.. by the time they were/are proposing to delay - more than 6.5 people will have been displaced from their homes or apartments due to approaching double-digit employment and the "new improved" "more inclusive" federal government is INSANE wasting time on this issue. Had I known that the incoming administration was going to waste time on this issue I'd have considered a vote for McSame and Caribou Barbie!

It's all well and good to want to give those 6.5 million people a shiny new box - but more than that are going to be kicked out of their homes. There are bigger issues like rebuilding highway infrastructure that is starting to collapse, rebuilding New Orleans and building enough new Starbucks stores to replace some of those lost jobs.

The American digital standard is VERY MUCH untested. Our switch is akin to - "our company is implementing the xxx ERP system this weekend, there will be a how-to guide in your inbox Monday morning." Not quite that bad, but nearly. Many broadcasters, if you compared the broadcast signal strength to a light, have to move from a candle to a lighthouse in the snap of a finger.

Many more broadcasters are on high VHF channels - starting with 7. Right this second those broadcasters whose analog signals are on channels 7-13 have been assigned UHF channels to simulcast their programming in digital. Indeed, broadcasters who always have been on UHF have been assigned OTHER UHF channels to simulcast their programming in digital. But overnight the 7-13 folks will switch off analog and just unplug their temporary UHF transmitter from their digital signal generator and plug that into the VHF transmitter. Trust them, it will all go perfectly. Everyone will configure the signal's metadata perfectly so that in the case of the "marketed" channel number being the actual broadcast channel it will just work - we have to trust them! Everyone who's on one temporary UHF channel moving the digital signal back to their existing channel assignment (which is part of their brand) will also have their metadata configured perfectly so the virtual channel numbers, called PSIP data in ATSC-speak, will of course be 100% correct on day one and everyone will only have to play with their box once on the big day.

(Between American broadcast channel 6 and broadcast channel 7 is the whole FM broadcast band and a bunch of other signals including things like air traffic control. Americans "know" television by the real broadcast channel number its on rather than most of the rest of the world's method of programming the four or five buttons in order of the 'named' national services with the concept of broadcast channel hidden away other than at TV setup. Yet the channels are still named and branded, the identity is just a mixture of the national network plus that channel number. The rest of the world mostly did this differently but charged a licence fee to spare the user the channel number layer of abstraction. The value-add of that huge fee annually is worth not knowing that abstraction, isn't it, he asked, ironically? <grin>)

No matter how long the switch is put off, to use a Montana expression - the switch will have all the organization and practicality of a Goat Rodeo.

What's most disconcerting about the whole thing from this American's point of view is the outrageousness of it. My father has a shiny new box but my mother does not!

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No Great Loss...

Yep, we knew about it for some time. Nope, the transmitters won't have enough power to spread the signal into outlying areas to overcome the weak signal cutoff inherent in digital transmission. Yes, we already know about this and will find that our high gain antennas are useless. If you don't have cable, you're SOL but then if you live where you need an antenna, you probably don't have cable. The same areas that are so far out that Internet is only available on dialup. Use it as an excuse to disconnect from garbage corporate culture. Read books, take walks, get a mind building hobby, make friends and do meaningful things with them.

And don't get me started on "Clear Channel" dreck.

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Nice.

Now "Jonny Rabbit Ears" can't steal their precious overpriced mind-rot with his antenna tower.

@David : So that they can sell off the frequencies to "Wireless" providers. (wireless WHAT exactly?)

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Already taking too long

HD broadcasts have been available since at least 2004 when I got my first HD tuner. And over 4 years later the switch over still hasn't happened?

They need to just get it over with already.

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Silver badge
Linux

Hmm Feb 18

That is around the time my part of the city gets bulk domestic rubbish collected once a year. My old analog TV is going to be on the curb-side by then. My nice new digital set... wait... um... well... I decided there wasn't enough on worth watching to justify the cost of a set: I bought a nice 27" monitor for my PC instead.

(I am in Australia, our analog doesn't go off for a few years yet, but there isn't even enough on nay more to justify keeping the bulky bloody thing hogging valuable living room space for the hour-or-so I watch it a month.)

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Is it worth it?

If it's anything like British TV, we went from 5 analogue channels with passable content to about 32 channels of digital video quality of utter shite and repeats. Quite frankly my TV stays off more often than on these days and I suspect the American public who hadn't bothered will not miss anything either and will end up putting the radio on instead.

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Stop

What about the advertisers?

The TV stations may be prepared for the switchover but it's the advertisers that pay the bills. Will they be happy if half the audience (and the stupidest half) disappears overnight?

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From what I've heard...

From American friends, many people doesn't understand that they don't NEED a decoder box if they have cable or satellite, and have applied for the rebate coupon they don't need.

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Anonymous Coward

this is important?

get

a

life

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Funny really

We, in our comparatively tiny country, are adopting a staged, regional change over. While the much bigger US tries to do it in one go. You'd think they'd do it state by state, adhering to a national standard of course.

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Coat

Those people still on analogue should get with the digital programme

... and install a bittorrent client.

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Paris Hilton

Am I confused here?

What's all this about no testing? I just grabbed this off a Boston TV station's site:

Television stations have been preparing for the transition from analog to DTV since the late 1990s, when they began building digital facilities and airing digital channels *alongside* regular analog broadcasts. (* added by me)

re: satellite users requesting coupons - Weather can knock out your satellite - it's often nice to still be able to tune in a station for the weather and see if the odd tornado is heading your way.

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Paris Hilton

the hinterlands will still have low power analogue

instead of sending out tuner box discount coupons, maybe everyone should just be given a 42-inch (measured diagonally, in canada 40.5 inches) flat screen for their wall.

oh, wait, they don't have a wall anymore cause they lost their job.

In new york city, there is a giant Flat Panel Plasma screen on every corner. So the homeless have something to watch.

seriously, people here (usa) are very underinformed, thinking digital transmission is a new technology that will be tried out beginning feb 17.

Las Vegas is served by several low power channels, which will NOT be shut off. So unprepared undividuals will still have two jewelery shopping channels, and the assortment of cul^H^H^Hreligious channels.

paris cause you NEED to see her new TV show (i applied to be in it)

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Tom
Silver badge

Re: "the current cuddly non-partisan nicey-nice"

I guess you missed that bailout fiasco vote last night too. Oh, wait you're from Frisco so you wouldn't actually KNOW any real Republicans. Newsflash: the honeymoon is over! From here on out we're calling out this socialist/Marxist/feudal claptrap for what it is.

Nice gloss over on the fact that this mostly benefits Obama's cronies too. The bandwidth they want to keep for the Hollywood types has been promised to America's first responders to improve their communications. I suppose a few thousand more dead after the next terrorist attack because The Messiah has decided to play footsies with the leading Islamofascists in the reason is a mere pittance in comparison with the pain and suffering of the poor sods who couldn't be bothered to make preparations for the switch during the 4 years its been coming.

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Not ready

My cable company admitted yesterday that they aren't ready yet. They are rushing but admit that our FOX affiliate might go dark on Feb. 17. They are NOW recommending that everyone in the area get a converter box! I don't think our electronics stores have 300,000 boxes in stock.

The networks are for the delay because when viewership suddenly drops by 10%, advertisers will want to pay 10% less.

Finally, Feb. 17 is in the middle of winter. It's difficult to actually get up on the roof to adjust or install an antenna when it's a sheet of ice.

No matter what happens, it's going to be a mess. But it will be less of a mess in June.

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Paris Hilton

State by state is impossible

@Richard

The states are too big to switch one at a time and they're not relevant to the placement of broadcasters to viewers in any case.

Television is broken down into Designated Market Areas - why? Because that's how the National Association of Broadcasters wanted it and they paid the politicians fat wads of cash over the years to keep it that way. This silly DMA term is codified into our law.

Nevermind that with analog broadcasting if you have a station on channel 45 in one DMA it means that channel 46 cannot be assigned in any of the neighboring DMA's. However with digital its perfectly possible, so they say. It's only been tested at relatively low power though. This is one of the reasons they want to do the switch all in one go.

After all, if you have an antenna it's quite likely you can see broadcast TV from your DMA but one or two neighboring ones. Cable is allowed to re-transmit signals from neighboring DMA's but satellite, absolutely not - unless the "local" station for your DMA -which is tied to your postal zip code (!) goes through the process of issuing a waiver AND that local station is not already available through the satellite provider. (Seriously!) They can either issue the waiver out of hand (rare) or they will actually send someone to the location to "test" reception. If reception fails, as the homeowner would be asserting by requesting a waiver - the broadcaster pays for the test and then might issue the waiver. This would allow the satellite company to authorize some distant channel - but the moment the satellite company starts relaying the "local channels for the postal zip code in question" or somesuch logic, they have to take it away.

To my knowledge only ONE DMA has been switched completely - Wilmington, North Carolina. It was far from trouble free for the technically challenged.

Our switchover is the equivalent of doing a soundcheck in a crowded stadium with a home stereo system in the middle of the stage. When the performers go on stage they suddenly switch over to the venue's much more powerful sound system and just expect it to work flawlessly. If not they will fine-tune it as the concert performance goes on and the paying advertisers won't care....

Actually the paying advertisers won't be all that upset: penetration of cable and satellite in urban areas is high. Each station "generally" has three fiber points of presence in the building that relay the signal to cable and the two dominant satellite companies - unless they don't, in which case it's a patchwork. But in most cases even if the broadcast signal goes off air for a time - and it may well when they suddenly turn up the power 10x what it had been - the cable and two satellite companies will likely still get their feeds.

Unless of course the station's owners' lawyers are simultaneously arguing with cable and two satellite company lawyers over "retransmission consent fees" - or some monetary amount paid to the broadcaster per cable or satellite account with access to the signal, whether they watch it or not. Usually one of the cable and one of the satellite companies comes to an arrangement, and the other satellite company just shuts the signal off for its subscribers and replaces it with a screen of text telling them Who They Want Their Viewers To Call to help them solve the negotiation problem. It's always the same story: the usually-greedy broadcaster who's not quite figured out that their piece of the pie is a bit slimmer in a 200-channel universe wants "too much money" per home. The cable or satellite company who pay not only on some negotiated per-subscription charge but for the expensive fiber backhauls of the signal wants to minimize this cost because they'd rather sell you more profitable sports, video on demand or anything else that will get them revenue. And how is this negotiated? Nationally? LOL. No, per DMA. It makes perfect sense if you're a broadcaster's lawyer/lobbyist who got this odd arrangement coded into law.

It's a wonder it's only 6 million people who've said @#%@! it.

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Just Do It

I think the biggest thing most people have to worry about is that they will discover there really wasn't anything worth watching in the first place :-)

There are going to be some hicups in the process, but delaying the transition will just delay the hicups. I think it is better to get them out of the way now, not later.

As for signal reception, if you have a good quality UHF/ VHF antenna already, it will still work. US DTV (which is not the same as HDTV) is using the same frequency bands as US Analog TV used. It's even using the same 6 MHz band width. It's not like you need a special antenna that is tuned to a different frequency band.

Having said that, there may be some minor confusion as the digital stations may not be on the same band (UHF, VHF) as they were before. Also, as many stations may switch frequencies/bands on Feb17 when they go back to running only 1 transmitter rather than two. In my local market, 3 of the VHF stations are on the UHF band for DTV. On Feb 17, two of them will switch their digital signal back to their old frequency (or at least band). The other will stay on UHF. Interestingly enough, in most cases, the decision as to switching back is being made a corporate offices, not at the local stations. To the end user, the biggest issue is that even with a DTV box (or DTV ready TV), they will need to re-scan for channels!

So what about US Cable? By law, the cable companies are required to continue analog broadcasts until 2011 (or maybe only 2010 -- I forget exactly). After that, it's anyone's guess. While people may complain at the cost of cable ($90+/month for digital cable), most don't realize that there are often much lower costs options if they push the person on the other end of the phone. In some markets, you can get the local broadcast stations (+ all of the shopping channels ever created) for < $10 / month.

IMHO, there are two groups of people who are going to have the biggest issues. The first ones are those who think the signal they are getting in their apartment from a connector on the wall is cable TV when it really isn't. In many apartment buildings, the signal is just the signal fed from an antenna (or antenna cluster) on the roof.

The second ones are the ones who had bad analog (NTSC) reception in the first place. Digital is not very forgiving: the signal is either readable or not. If the picture on your TV is full of "snow" now, you won't have a good DTV experience. (This reminds me of going from an analog cell phone to a digital -- my analog never dropped, it just got noisy. My digital cell phone drops.)

- John

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ian
Bronze badge

"under-educated, non-English speakers"

In Spanish, these people are called "pendejos".

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Paris Hilton

@AC: One word

Internet. I abandoned cable almost two years ago and have not missed it since. I watch the shows I want to watch, when and where I want to watch them, with minimal commercial interruption. Unlike so many -- well, I guess so many without a DVR -- I do not have to arrange my schedule around a particular show, and I do not have to wonder why I am paying $60 a month for two or three shows in which I am actually interested.

That is not to say that there is no market for cable to me. I crave information, and sometimes just having something like the History Channel or A&E on in the background satisfies that craving. I also provides enough pink noise in my environment to help keep me sane while I putter around with other tasks. But no where near worth $60 a month. And most shows which I might find interesting in the first place I will, again, be able to find online.

The rest of my day is spent in the real world.

I will refrain from commenting on the political aspect of your comment.

Paris, somewhere in the real world, I think.

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Happy

@ ian

"under-educated, non-English speakers"

In Spanish, these people are called "pendejos".

And there I thought they were called 'Americans'. :-)

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Happy

under educated non English speakers LOL

Spanish-language TV had more PSA's per hour than English-language TV: it is the DE FACTO 2nd language.

I'm an American but the target audience of Televisa (the main company who owns most of the Spanish-language TV) calls me "gabacho."

Never heard it? Thought they called you "gringo?" Not so much. "Gabacho" is the perjorative word.

The average "American" could not figure out pendejo, too stupid.

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