Saturday, October 16, 2010

Oddly silent dogs: The digital TV conversion

Canada still hasn't converted, but the US went to all digital TV on June 12, 2009.

We were supposed to convert in Feb 2009, but the switchover was delayed to allow more consumers to buy D/A converters or digital TVs. My family stayed with rabbit ears; they work better with our subsidized D/A boxes than with old school analog broadcasts. It is true, however, that nobody here watches TV on a TV any more. (The kids see their cartoons streamed to the laptop during their earned computer time, we also stream Netflix to iMac or Wii or we try to watch Netflix's frequently defective DVDs).

Which brings me to something noteworthy. The dog didn't bark. I expected some screaming by on June 13th -- didn't happen. Nothing happened. Cheapskates like us bought subsidized converters, others bought new TVs, cable subscribers weren't affected anyway. As best as I can tell, everyone who wanted a subsidized converter got one.

Most of the analog frequencies were sold off for vast sums (dwarfing the A/D converter subsidies), but a critical component has been made a public good with potentially enormous implications.

This was a huge change in American life, and it was created and executed by government. The six month switchover delay and extra converter subsidies happened under the Obama administration, but this was a long transition that started in Clinton years and went through Bush II.

A longterm, bipartisan, massive technological transition entirely driven and controlled by the Federal government -- that worked.

Nobody talks about it.

Isn't that a bit weird?

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