Did you get yours?

The federal government recently pocketed nearly $20 billion by selling off something you owned. Your share of the auction of the analog TV spectrum should be roughly $175. So, if you called up to get a coupon for a converter box and they told you that there’s already 1.35 million people ahead of you on the waiting list, ask them for the cash instead!

There’s a bunch of reasons why the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) wanted to shift broadcast TV signals over to a different set of frequencies. Broadband wireless communications wanted the old 700 MHz frequencies since they are real good for large volumes of data. And public safety organizations (police, ambulance, and fire) all wanted in. Their calls were being crowded out by all the folks that had previously been licensed to use pretty much the same frequencies as the cops did. Just ask anyone with a scanner – they’ll tell you how much distortion there is!

But, let’s face it, the real reason is that the Feds could smell the money. They could carve out a new chunk of the public’s airwaves and sell it to the highest bidder. Ka-ching! If only they could convince the broadcasters that it was in their best interests.

Ta-da! Along came digital. Current broadcasters got the two-for-one special: for every signal they currently are licensed they would get two digital signals, and since digital is more compressed than analog those two signals could be carried in the space of one! Of course, all the broadcaster were itching to go digital, anyway, promising CD-quality sound and less interference.

And our friends at RadioSchak, Vann-ities, Circuited-City, and BuyBuyBuy.com are more than happy to show you a new TV should you stop by looking for a converter box. Even Comcast, TimeWarner, DirectTV and the other cable or satellite companies are more than happy to sign you up for their signals that don’t require a new TV OR a converter box.

Ah, but then there’s the recalcitrant public. The deal is going to have to toss a bone or two to the ungrateful swine owners to get them to sell up. And so was born the great converter box coupon swindle! Now, I gotta admit, I went online and ordered a coupon. Problem was it expired before Best Boy had a converter box to sell me. So, I ordered another in the name of my next door neighbor’s dog. And then we both went shopping! After a pretty painless installation, I now get a couple more PBS channels than before as well as one of the networks that didn’t come through before. So, for the grand sum of about $30 (once the coupon for $40 was subtracted from the price) I’m a pretty happy camper.

But, of the 112,275,000 households who have a TV, it is estimated that about 8 million (6.8%) aren’t ready for the digital changeover. That’s 8 million old and other folks who don’t quite understand what all the fuss is about. They haven’t done anything wrong. Their TV still works fine today. Why shouldn’t it work fine in 36 days, 1 hour and 37 minutes? And no-one I’ve met has yet figured out how to cash the government’s coupons or buy a warm pair of socks with them. But, maybe they will and then they’ll get theirs, too.


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