Friday, July 28, 2006

Digital TV coming

Legislation passed by the Senate ... would require broadcasters to end their traditional analog transmissions by Feb. 17, 2009, and send their signals digitally.
...Under the converter box program, consumers with analog sets would be able to request two, $40 coupons to help buy the set-top boxes, which are expected to cost $50 to $60 each.Democratic lawmakers and consumer groups say that the $1.5 billion would fall far short of helping pay for every set eligible for a converter box.
...There is no income cap for those who may request the coupons. GOP supporters such as the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, have said that lawmakers do not expect to subsidize wealthier homes.

There are several things easy to predict:

1) If an income cap is not instituted, wealthier homes will grab up the converter coupons, resulting in not enough for the poor. Even if Congress decides to allocate enough funds and safegurads to provide for a converter for every poor family, they will probably not institute an effective information system, and many of the poor will not know about the program, or will not know have the means to get the coupons.

2) Crime will go up. The poor depend heavily on TV for their entertainment. They can watch it in the relative safety of their homes. It costs less to buy and operate than a car, which many poor people don't have. In many parts of the country, they don't even have access to public transportation. Once they have paid for a used TV, or paid off the layaway cost, has negligible costs.
For a minority, this will lead directly to crime, to steal a converter or digital TV or acquire the money to do so. Mostly, crime will increase because a few will steal large numbers of converters to sell cheaply to the more honest poor people.

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