I've been waiting for someone to call for a delay, in part because the government program providing vouchers for digital television converters has run out of money.
There's also the niggling problem that many consumers don't get it. Look at the results of a late 2008 survey if you don't believe me:
According to surveys conducted by the Consumers Union, a consumer advocacy group that also publishes Consumer Reports magazine, while 90 percent of the nation is aware of the transition, 25 percent mistakenly believe that one must subscribe to cable or satellite after February, and 41 percent think that every TV in a house must have a new converter box, even those that are already connected to cable or satellite.
To set the record straight on point one: if you watch what we think of as "free" TV, TV from over-the-air signals, then you may need a digital converter box or else your TV will be good for DVDs and VCRs and nothing else. If your TV is digital (it has an internal digital tuner), then you don't have to do anything to watch digital TV. But if your TV is an older or less expensive model that contains only an analog tuner, you will need to buy a digital converter box.
To set the record straight on point two, if you have a cable or satellite set-top box, you're already watching a digital-signal. No converter needed, unless you watch local stations over-the-air.
Digital Converter Boxes
When Congress mandated the change to digital broadcasting, it also set up a program to subsidize the cost of the digital converter box. That's because analysts believe that those who are most likely to need the auxiliary unit (the converter box) are the elderly and the poor.
The Digital-to-Analog Converter Box Coupon Program is administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), part of the Department of Commerce, administers this program. The subsidy is a $40 coupon; each household was allowed to order two and the program began last year. I admit that I've been caught off-guard: I ordered one for my dad last year and did not realize that it was good for only 90 days.
Although the transition affects anyone who watches television, about 30 percent will need to do something before 18 February in order to continue watching television. According to the National Association of Broadcasters, more than 20 million households watch only "free" (analog) TV, capturing the signal with an antenna (roof-top or “rabbit ears”). About 15 million additional households have at least one TV that is not not connected to cable or satellite. That means more than 35 million households -- out of about 111 million -- have to change the way they watch TV. They either need to buy and set up a digital converter box, buy a new TV or subscribe to cable, satellite or FiOS TV programming.
It's hard to believe that the program has run out of money: consumers have redeemed only 16 million coupons although we've ordered about 40 million. I don't know what percentage of that 24 million have expired (like mine).
Also affected are broadcasters. For example, WOSU General Manager Tom Rieland (Columbus, OH) estimates extending the dual broadcast signal would cost his PBS station $7,000 a month.
What do you think? Postpone or suck-it-up?