The Senate approved legislation yesterday that puts the U.S. one step closer to an all-digital television world. At the same time, the legislation creates a federal program that is designed to help all of us pay for new equipment so that our existing analog television sets can still work after Feb. 17, 2009, the “hard date” for transition.
Included in the legislation is a program that would give each household up to two coupons worth $40 each to pay for converter boxes to keep analog sets working after broadcasters surrender their analog licenses on Feb. 17, 2009. (Do I smell a black market for these coupons for households with more than two sets?)
Would imagine that all of those TV set manufacturers aren’t too happy with the latest development – the cheery sugar plum vision of all those existing sets heading to landfills and consumers buying brand new digital sets has been popped. On the other hand, can’t imagine too many of us who have plunked down serious cash for new flat-panel displays are disappointed with this development. (There would have been many very nice sets out on the curb for trash collectors the morning of Feb. 18, 2009 if not – a serious recycling problem.)
Interesting to see that the funds to pay for the converter boxes will come from the sale of broadcasters’ returned spectrum licenses. These are in high demand by companies looking to expand wireless and broadband services.
Also interesting to see how fair this program is to consumers and if $80 worth of coupons will be enough to cover both the costs – and inconvenience – of this digital transition. Consumer groups are onto this issue.
Let’s see what comes next …