Archive for January, 2009

Digital TV, ad nauseam

Posted in Odds, Politics on January 30, 2009 by The Prince of Pithy

(From Ben Patterson.)

The DTV delay bill: It’s baaaaaack!
Fri Jan 30, 2009 10:28AM EST

Like a zombie that just won’t die, the DTV delay bill—which was voted down by the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday—has sprung back to life, with a little help from the Senate.
Reuters reports that a second bill—”essentially” a twin of the defeated House bill, which sought to push the Feb. 17 shutoff of analog TV signals back to June 12—won unanimous support from the Senate on Thursday, and may end up shambling its way back to the House next week.

As with the original DTV delay bill, the new proposal—devised by Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller and Republican counterpart Kay Bailey Hutchison—would give viewers four more months to prepare for the DTV transition, while allowing those TV stations that have already started dismantling their analog TV equipment to go all-digital before the new, June 12 deadline.

And if the bill goes before the Democrat-controlled House under standard, simple-majority adoption rules—as opposed to the fast-tracking procedure used on Wednesday, which requires a two-thirds majority for passage (the original vote was 258-168, just shy of the two-thirds needed)—there’s an excellent chance that the Feb. 17 DTV transition date will, in fact, be delayed.

In case you were wondering, well … yes, the whole “DTV delay” thing has gotten pretty nuts, and if viewers weren’t already confused about when the transition was going to occur, they are now.

Yes, it’s true that an estimated 6.5 million U.S. households still aren’t ready for the DTV transition, which would render analog TVs with over-the-air antennas useless without a $40-$60 DTV converter box (more details here).

And yes, there’s no question that the government’s $1.5 billion DTV converter-box coupon program—which allows for two $40 coupons per household—is a mess, with at least two million people on a waiting list after spending limits were reached a few weeks ago. (Money flows back into the program every week as unused coupons—which are good for 90 days—expire, and legislators have been proposing various ways to boost funding.)

But we’ve been working on this DTV transition thing for more than 10 years, people. This oft-cited Nielsen poll, looked at from another perspective, shows that more than 94 percent of America is ready for the change. And the DTV coupon program wouldn’t be in such dire straits had not so many applicants—who’ve had almost a year to apply for their coupons—waited until the last minute, or received their coupons but never bothered to use them.

Moreover, once the wireless spectrum that’s being used for analog TV is vacated, we’ll be able to use it for new technologies like 4G wireless services (think ubiquitous wireless broadband, for everyone) as well as improved channels of emergency communication for local police and fire departments (which are all chomping at the bit to deploy their new systems).

No, the DTV transition won’t be easy, but surely we can find a better way to help the last 5.7 percent of U.S. households cross the digital TV gap without pushing back the deadline for everyone.

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Just make it stop!!!

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Digital TV, Addendum

Posted in Odds, Politics on January 28, 2009 by The Prince of Pithy

House defeats bill to delay digital TV transition (AP)
Posted on Wed Jan 28, 2009 4:22PM EST

WASHINGTON – Bucking the Obama administration, House Republicans on Wednesday defeated a bill to delay the upcoming transition from analog to digital television broadcasting to June 12 — leaving as many as 6.5 million U.S. households unprepared for the switchover.

The 258-168 vote failed to clear the two-thirds threshold needed for passage in a victory for GOP members, who warn that postponing the transition from the current Feb. 17 deadline would confuse consumers.

House Republicans say a delay also would burden wireless companies and public safety agencies waiting for the spectrum that will be freed up by the switch, and create added costs for television stations that would have to continue broadcasting both analog and digital signals for four more months.

The defeat is a setback for President Barack Obama and Democrats on Capitol Hill, who maintain that the Bush administration bungled efforts to ensure that all consumers — particularly poor, rural and low-income Americans — will be ready for next month’s analog shut-off.

The Obama administration had no immediate comment on the House vote and the next step remains unclear.

Gene Kimmelman, vice president for federal policy at the Consumers Union, which has been lobbying for a delay, said he hopes House Democrats will bring the bill up again for a regular floor vote, which would only require majority support to pass. Wednesday’s vote took place under a special procedure that required two-thirds support for passage.

The Nielsen Co. estimates more than 6.5 million U.S. households that rely on analog television sets to pick up over-the-air broadcast signals still are not prepared for the transition. People who subscribe to cable or satellite TV or have a newer TV with a digital tuner will not be affected.

Yet Joe Barton of Texas, the top Republican on the House Commerce Committee, insisted a postponement is not necessary.

“We could do nothing worse than to delay this transition date,” Barton said. “The bill is a solution looking for a problem that exists mostly in the mind of the Obama administration.”

Barton led the push to scuttle the bill, which passed the Senate unanimously on Monday night after lawmakers in that chamber struck a bipartisan compromise. Senate Democrats won over Republican support by allowing broadcast stations to make the switch from analog to digital signals sooner than the June deadline if they choose and permitting public safety agencies to take over vacant spectrum promised to them as soon as it becomes available.

But those concessions did not placate most Republicans in the House. Only 22 Republicans voted for the bill, while 155 voted against it. Among House Democrats, 236 voted for the bill and just 13 voted against it.

Congress in 2005 required broadcasters to switch from analog to digital signals, which are more efficient, to free up valuable chunks of wireless spectrum to be used for commercial services and interoperable emergency-response networks.

The Obama administration called for the transition date to be postponed after the Commerce Department earlier this month hit a $1.34 billion funding limit for coupons to subsidize digital TV converter boxes for consumers. The coupon program allows consumers to request up to two $40 vouchers per household to help pay for the boxes, which translate digital signals back into analog ones for older TVs. The boxes generally cost between $40 and $80 each and can be purchased without a coupon.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the arm of the Commerce Department administering the program, is now sending out new coupons only as older, unredeemed ones reach a 90-day expiration date and free up more money. The NTIA had more than 3.2 million coupon requests on a waiting list as of Wednesday and those people will not receive their coupons before Feb. 17.

Barton, for one, is pushing legislation to fix the coupon program without delaying next month’s transition.

Yet Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John D. Rockefeller, D-W.Va., author of the bill to postpone the switchover, said a delay is the only way to ensure that millions of Americans don’t see their television screens go dark next month.

“The outgoing Bush administration grossly mismanaged the digital television transition and consumers are confused, households are not prepared, and the coupon program for converter boxes is broken,” Rockefeller said in a statement after the House vote.

The National Association of Broadcasters, which threw its support behind Rockefeller’s bill this week, declined to comment Wednesday.

Among the big broadcast networks, The Walt Disney Co.’s ABC said it supports a delay, while CBS Corp. said it is “open to any plan that makes the digital transition easier for our viewers.” News Corp.’s Fox Network had no comment Wednesday, although it has previously said it “supports any efforts to ensure that the transition to digital television is a success.”

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Associated Press Ryan Nakashima in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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Good.

Digital TV

Posted in Odds, Politics on January 28, 2009 by The Prince of Pithy

Senate passes bill to delay digital TV switch
Tue Jan 27, 9:22 am ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Senate passed a bill on Monday to delay the nationwide switch to digital TV signals, giving consumers nearly four more months to prepare.

The transition date would move to June 12 from February 17 under the bill that was fueled by worries that viewers are not technically ready for the congressionally-mandated switch-over.

It also would allow consumers with expired coupons, available from the government to offset the cost of a $40 converter box, to request new coupons. The government ran out of coupons earlier this month, and about 2.5 million Americans are on a waiting list for them.

Senate Commerce Chairman John Rockefeller said delaying the TV switch is the right thing to do because the United States is not yet ready to make the transition.

“The Senate acted responsibly to give the Obama administration time to attempt to bring order to a mismanaged process,” the West Virginia Democrat said in a statement.

Many lawmakers worry that an estimated 20 million mostly poor, elderly and rural households are not ready for the switch, which requires owners of older television sets receiving over-the-air signals to buy a converter box or subscribe to cable or satellite TV.

Broadcasters are moving from analog to digital signals to give public safety officials more spectrum, especially useful for emergencies, and to improve viewing quality.

Momentum had been building for a delay since President Barack Obama backed it earlier this month.

The digital TV bill also would extend the licenses of AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications, which are waiting for the airwaves to be vacated when all TVs convert.

The companies, which paid $16 billion for the public airwaves in an auction last year, would get 116 extra days on their licenses under the proposed legislation.

CTIA, the wireless trade association, has said a delay could hurt confidence in the FCC’s spectrum auctions.

(Reporting by Kim Dixon, Editing by Toni Reinhold and Carol Bishopric)

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Okay I don’t watch that much TV – I waste my time online – but this really bugged me. So some people won’t be able to watch American Idol or their soaps, but it’s not like they didn’t know this was coming. I think it was four years ago that they first mandated this change, and for the past few months it’s like every other commercial is asking, “Are you ready for the digital conversion?” I have the same TV I took to college fifteen years ago. Yes, it’s old, but I have cable so, unless everybody has been lying to me for the past six months, I should be fine. Part of the reason I haven’t bought a new one is I figured I would wait until after the conversion had happened and all the bugs were worked out of the system. Now, I’ll probably have to wait – since the House and Obama are for this bill – four extra months because people who find TV so precious, apparently have missed all those FUCKING commercials about “Being prepared for the digital conversion on February 17, 2009.”

Alphabet Blogs

Posted in Writing on January 28, 2009 by The Prince of Pithy

Over on my oneoveralpha’s writing blog, I’ve started a series of blogs set around the letters, as in “A is for …” and “B is for …” What can I say, it’s a gimmick.

Living in fear

Posted in Odds, Politics on January 24, 2009 by The Prince of Pithy

I don’t know if you’ve heard the story or not, but apparently some guy who spent several years in Gitmo was released over a year ago and is not thought to be leading terrorists in Yemen. Some people are saying this is why Obama is wrong to close Gitmo. I think Keith Olbermann blasts that idea rather succinctly.

But I wanted to add my take on this, in a roundaboutish way.

One day back when I was in college, I saw a flier some group had put up with tips for guys. I gathered from the flier that women live in constant fear guys are going to rape them. The tips were things guys could do ease the minds of women. The only one I remember, is if a guy is walking down the sidewalk and sees a woman 30-40 feet in front of him, he should cross the street and walk on the other side because apparently women think that if a guy is walking behind her, he is going to rape her. I found the whole thing rather offensive, for men and women. Are there rapist out there? Yes, but guys shouldn’t have to constantly prove that they are not rapist. Let’s turn this around in a lighthearted fashion. Are there psycho-bitches out there? Yes. Should guys treat all women as potential psycho-bitches until they prove otherwise? No.

Now, what does any of that have to do with Gitmo? The people who want Gitmo to stay open, I believe, are living in the state of constant fear that everybody is a terrorists. Any woman who thinks that just because a guy is walking behind her on the sidewalk means he is going to rape her, has issues, just like anyone who thinks someone from the middle east must be a terrorist and needs to be imprisoned forever. Are there terrorists out there? Yes, but we shouldn’t be live in fear that everybody is one.

Women that probably need to be slapped

Posted in Religion on January 24, 2009 by The Prince of Pithy

I saw this over on God is for Suckers!, and it’s one of those things where you see people who believe, think, and feel things that are so far away from what you believe, think, and feel that you don’t know what to do. (I couldn’t get the GodTube video to embed, but I did find the video on YouTube.)

Welcome to the Universe – I: Introduction

Posted in Astronomy on January 20, 2009 by The Prince of Pithy

This is the beginning of a cool video series by AndromedasWake.