28 Oct 2005

No More Bunny Ears

You probably wouldn't expect this from me, being such a tech geek, but we don't have cable television. We have an antenna we bought at Radio Shack a few years ago when our previous antenna broke. Yes, the clerk gave me a funny look. Our entire marriage, Jessica and I have never gotten more than 5 channels.
Now, we're not complete TV luddites - we watch some TV shows we have on DVD. However, as far as newer stuff goes, we currently only get about 4 channels, all over our rabbit ear antenna - only one and a half in english. (I don't think fuzzy KQED really counts as a full 'english' vote)
Though this has, at times, helped us work on our spanish skills a bit, it rather severely limits how much TV we can stand. When it takes you 8 seconds to flip through all your channels and you end up on 'Sabado Gigante', chances are it's going to be a short TV night. Which I think is something of a good thing.
At any rate, the reason I am sharing this is that there is a bill being discussed in the Senate to force broadcasters to switch to all digital programming by the year 2009. This makes my story relevant in that they are going to spend about 3 billion dollars (when you say that, be sure to put your pinky to your mouth, Dr. Evil style) giving converter boxes to people that still watch TV over the air. Like me.
The silly thing is that they are doing this regardless of financial status, so, it's going to cost taxpayers about $40 for the one I would need to use. Not directly, the money would come from the sale of the spectrum, I'm assuming to the private sector, but it's less money to reduce our debt regardless.
Also, this is one of the arguments in favor:
The move to all-digital broadcasts will free valuable radio spectrum, some of which will be allocated to improve radio communications among fire and police departments and other first responders.
Does that seem weird to you? I mean, that is obviously important, but is the radio spectrum that crowded that we need to sell off the free, over the air broadcast frequencies? Or, is the technology we are equipping our first responders with not making very good use of the existing spectrum?
My question is: is this really a pressing need, or do the media companies just want to make sure they have digital rights management over everything that goes out? So people couldn't keep doing silly things like tape recording shows without paying extra.
Anyhow, it looks like in the next few years we're (my wife and I) going to have to either cut TV out altogether or finally break down and pay for cable from our designated monopoly. (I've already had this conversation. Me: "What is your smallest package?", Them: "Well, we start at $49.99/mo and it comes with 850 channels, and you need a converter box so we can add another remote control to your life", Me: "How does that compare to your competition?", Them: "Our comp-e-what? [barely stifled laughter]") Maybe by then we'll finally be able to subscribe to good TV by the show and have the episodes delivered over the internet and none of this will be an issue anymore.
Hmm. How much do you suppose the 'Daily Show' + 'Sabado Gigante' package would cost?
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