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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Your TV: Soon to be Obsolete!

Unless your head is under a rock, you've probably already heard about high definition TV. Less understood is how digital TV is going to take over completely in February of 2009, and analog TV is going away. At least, analog will no longer be broadcast over the air.

But, never fear! The government is here to help! A program has been announced wherein the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) will be issuing $40 coupons to the general public, to be applied toward purchasing a set-top converter box. The box will receive digital TV over the air and convert it to analog for your old set.

Not yet known is how much the boxes will actually cost at a typical retailer, so it's hard to say just how far that $40 will stretch. To date, many over-the-air set-top converter boxes have cost in the $200 range, though Radio Shack once offered a box for $80 that sold out immediately. Right now, you'd be lucky to find such a converter box anywhere. They pretty much don't exist right now, as retailers are only interested in selling complete new TV sets. As of the first of this month, all new TV sets sold are now required to have built-in digital tuners, even if it's not a wide-screen "HDTV" set.

Of course, if you're among the majority of people who receive your all your TV over cable or satellite, this doesn't necessarily affect you. Cable companies can continue providing analog cable for as long as they want, and satellite has already depended upon set-top boxes with analog outputs for years. Even if you have satellite or cable, though, and you're just dying to get one of these things, you will still be eligible to get the $40 coupon. At least, you will in the first round. If the initial allotment of government funds runs out, they will then limit the coupons to people who "self certify" that they do not have satellite or cable.

All in all the feds may be spending up to $1.5 billion to support this program. There's still a big profit motive in it for the federal government, though. As soon as the process is complete, they plan to auction off much of the vacated analog spectrum to wireless service providers, which could raise several billion. You can check out the official NTIA announcement here.


Lee Shelton said...

It will be interesting to see how much the converter boxes will cost. My guess is that, because of the coupons, they will receive at least a $40 mark-up over what they would have cost without the coupons. Kind of like how guaranteed government funds artificially inflate the cost of college tuition, doctors' visits, insurance, and everything else.

Chris Wilde said...

Very likely! I think it's questionable how many people really "need" this program. Even those who live on government assistance often seem to have a way of keeping a pretty nice TV under their roofs. A favorite professional maxim of mine comes to mind: "It's only television."

Craver Vii said...

If the regular TV doesn't work without this magic box, we just may switch to radio for our news and use the TV exclusively for videos and DVD.

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