It’s past time to be ready for switch to digital TV

Published 6:00 am Monday, February 9, 2009

With congressional action to postpone to June 12 broadcasters’switch from analog television signals to digital signaltransmission, procrastinators will have four more months to getready for the change. We wonder what can be done in four monthsthat hasn’t been able to be done in the almost four years sinceCongress voted to make the transition.

The switch is being made because digital signals are moreefficient and would free up airwaves for commercial wirelessservices and for emergency response networks. But proponents of thepostponement maintain too many television viewers are not ready forthe change.

Quite honestly, though, anyone who is unaware of the upcomingchange or not ready for it just hasn’t been paying attention. Andthat’s no one’s fault but their own.

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As the original Feb. 17 Big Switch date has drawn closer, muchattention – both on television and in other media – has beendevoted to letting people know what they need to do to prepare.

Part of the information blitz has cited a government program tohelp viewers who use antennae, such as “rabbit ears,” buy digitalconverter boxes for them to continue watching television after theswitch date. However, all the $40 coupons in the initial $1 billionprogram have been obligated and now there is a waiting list ofcoupon requests.

That coupons are harder to obtain does not prevent people fromgetting a converter. It simply means they will not have $40 ingovernment money to help them purchase the approximately $50 to $80devices.

One question that arises on this point is why is it thegovernment’s responsibility to make sure people can watchtelevision?

While it is estimated that millions could lose the televisionsignal with the change, the fact remains that millions more willnot be affected because – in some form or fashion – they canalready receive the digital signal.

That fact makes much of the digital switch date debatepointless, but the bottom line is that some people will never beready unless they are made to be. That’s the point of deadlines,and that’s why June 12 needs to be the final one.