TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Most Viewers Are in the Dark About the Future of Digital TV

Most Viewers Are in the Dark About the Future of Digital TV

Monty Solomon (
Sun, 13 Nov 2005 16:37:59 -0500

By Bruce Mohl, Globe Staff

As the nation prepares to make the leap to digital television,
Congress is trying to decide how many billions of dollars it's going
to spend to make sure no TV viewer gets left behind.

Unbeknownst to most Americans, TV stations across America currently
broadcast shows in both digital and analog formats. Roughly three
years from now, Congress intends to shut off the analog signals and
complete the transition to digital TV, which offers the potential for
much sharper pictures, more programming options, and interactive

But not everyone is ready to make the jump. Americans own an estimated
70 million TV sets that rely on free over-the-air analog signals.
Without converter boxes that are expected to cost $60 apiece, those
sets will go dark when the analog signals are shut off.

Those converter boxes will add up. So here's the billion-dollar
question: Is this government-mandated transition to digital TV the
equivalent of an eminent domain taking? By shutting off the analog
signals, is the government required to pay for the converter boxes
that will allow analog TVs to keep working?

The House has proposed paying a portion of the cost, setting aside
$830 million to subsidize the purchase of converter boxes, plus
another $160 million to administer the subsidy program. The Senate is
willing to go further, budgeting nearly $3 billion for subsidies and
administrative expenses. The branches are trying to reconcile their

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