We’re about a month away from the end of broadcast television. … Maybe.
The United States, eager to auction off valuable spectrum space, has set Feb. 17 as a mandatory cut-off date, when all televisions must stop analog transmission and switch to digital.
The problem is that millions of television sets are not capable of receiving digital television signals and won’t be able to receive anything after this date.
No problem, the government says. They’ll institute a rebate program on converter boxes that receive the digital signal and spit out an analog one that the TV can read. Every household can get a $40 coupon, and the program will cost about $1.3 billion. Yeah, sure, that’s throwing an insane amount of money at the problem, but it’s much less than they would gain in auctions of the spectrum to various wireless interests.
But there’s a problem. The budget has run out, the coupons are on a waiting list and millions of people don’t have their converter boxes a month before the turnoff and switchover is supposed to take place. It’s gotten so bad President-elect Barack Obama is already suggesting there be a delay in the switchover.
In Canada, the switch happens on Aug. 31, 2011, for the entire country except the North. We’re facing the same issues two years down the road.