UPDATED: Surprise of the day – the House did not pass the bill to delay the DTV transition. Looks like we’re on for February 17th as planned.
At some point you just have to rip the band-aid off. It’s painful and a bit eewy, but necessary nonetheless – which is exactly how I’m starting to feel about the broadcast DTV transition.
The Senate yesterday agreed to move the transition date from February 17th to June 12th. While we still have to wait on reconciliation of the Senate and House bills, the assumption at this point is that the delay will go through. Even as folks breathe a sigh of relief that the digital converter coupon program can catch up with demand, I have to question how much the four-month delay will really help. From my own neighborhood experience, the biggest difficulty for analog households is setting up digital converter boxes, not getting hold of them. And even when the set-up is complete, there are bizarre quirks. My local digital PBS station, for example, won’t operate at full power until the transition actually occurs. That means that anyone setting up a converter box early may have trouble tuning in to PBS, which is bound to create confusion and possibly delay set-up of converter boxes on ancillary TVs.
With the cable transition to digital TV, there is a built-in resource for customer support. Service providers have to make sure their subscribers get the channels they pay for one way or another. But with over-the-air TV, there isn’t an automatic line of support. The NCTA is working with the government to provide a national DTV transition call center, but even that will depend on consumers knowing where to call.
Bottom line: the transition is inevitably going to be a bit messy – no matter whether it happens in February or June.