40% of stations shutting down analog broadcasts anyways

The House may have finally gotten the vote through to delay the digital transition from February 17th to June 12th to give more time for money to be scraped together for more converter box coupons… but television stations were never obliged to fund four more months of analog signals. And wouldn’t you know: 40% of them won’t, shutting those signals down next Tuesday.

I’ve been flip in the past about my feelings about exactly why the digital transition delay is a bad idea, but it really does come down to this: 40% of analog signals shutting down on February 17th is a hell of a lot more confusing to people than 100% shutting down. Expect a lot or befuddled grannies shrieking in the aisles of Best Buy over the coming weeks.

Many local TV stations to go ahead with DTV switch [Reuters]

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24 Responses to 40% of stations shutting down analog broadcasts anyways

  1. ROSSINDETROIT says:

    I have pix but no editing software in the shop. Updates later when the pix hit Flickr. I doesn’t look like much, unfortunately. Wires and circuit boards. I’m doing a full writeup for the DIY forum on AUDIOKARMA.ORG. If it’s any good Gareth might give it a mention in a Make blog.

    I haven’t tested the range of the remote yet. It’s supposed to be good for 300 meters.

  2. robotrevolution says:

    Plus, those stations will save a lot of money. Digital transmitters don’t require nearly as much power as analog transmitters, so utility bills should drop significantly.

  3. ROSSINDETROIT says:

    If we weren’t overpaying for the converter boxes then the money from the auction of the BW could have gone to something else useful. It’s costing us collectively far too much. The public owns the airwaves and for some reason we’re subsidizing the companies that want to sell us products that receive broadcasts.

  4. Brainspore says:

    Actually, all of the money fom the coupons comes from the proceeds of the airwave auctions, so it’s not taxpayer money. It’s (mostly) Verizon/AT&T money.

    The airwaves are public property, the use of which is leased to private interests. (That’s why the FCC will shut you down if you decide to put up a big TV transmitter on your own.) So any money that comes from those lease agreements may be considered “public money” even if it wasn’t collected through taxes.

  5. zuzu says:

    The airwaves are public property, the use of which is leased to private interests. (That’s why the FCC will shut you down if you decide to put up a big TV transmitter on your own.)

    Except that this social convention is counterfactual:

    Interference is a metaphor that paints an old limitation of technology as a fact of nature.” So says David P. Reed, electrical engineer, computer scientist, and one of the architects of the Internet. If he’s right, then spectrum isn’t a resource to be divvied up like gold or parceled out like land. It’s not even a set of pipes with their capacity limited by how wide they are or an aerial highway with white lines to maintain order.

    Spectrum is more like the colors of the rainbow, including the ones our eyes can’t discern. Says Reed: “There’s no scarcity of spectrum any more than there’s a scarcity of the color green. We could instantly hook up to the Internet everyone who can pick up a radio signal, and they could pump through as many bits as they could ever want. We’d go from an economy of digital scarcity to an economy of digital abundance.”

    So throw out the rulebook on what should be regulated and what shouldn’t. Rethink completely the role of the Federal Communications Commission in deciding who gets allocated what. If Reed is right, nearly a century of government policy on how to best administer the airwaves needs to be reconfigured, from the bottom up.

    David Weinberger interviewing David P. Reed in The myth of interference

    c.f. open spectrum, cognitive radio, and software defined radio

  6. Narual says:

    @TJ S: Isn’t part of the reason for this delay that the coupon program ran out of money? How are they going to make up for it? Tax money. And if it’s not tax money, well, in one pocket, out the other; the money AT&T/Verizon paid could effectively be allocated for a couple of aircraft carriers, money that just randomly disappeared in iraq, senatorial pay, EPA funding, or anything else that tax money paid for. If I have 10 bucks and you give me 10 more and I buy a $5 coffee, I paid it with money I have — money I had or money you gave me isn’t a part of the equation.

  7. webmonkees says:

    And the converters are still $20 overpriced and the stores consider them gold;

    Here’s a perfect example: I went over to the clearance sale at Circuit City.. 100% of original price of $47.99.. enough to obliterate the coupon and then some..
    Sign up with the dtv coupon exchange program if you need a coupon or have an extra..

  8. ROSSINDETROIT says:

    For the record, from a guy standing in an electronics shop at this moment, with degrees in Electronics Technology and Data Processing, Information Theory is not some scheme ginned up to keep information from becoming free. It is Science. Bandwidth is a real and limited resource, no matter what some might wish to believe.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Various people have sited David Reed’s articles. While I might have respect for his CS credentials, I haven’t seen anything leading me to believe his radio electronics engineering credentials.

    David Reed posits a smart receiver, and a smart transmitter. But he doesn’t lay out specifics of how these get by occupying the same frequency space. He veers off into frequency hopping (and how much of a magic bullet that is).

    Receivers have limits on the frequencies they can receive, under what conditions, and over what distances. Same way the mark I eyeball does. That being the case, you CAN saturate the frequency range. Error correction assumes that a connection can be established in the first place; and error correction naturally reduces the reliable bandwidth available. For most applications, there is a lower threshhold for usefulness.

    His article also seems to assume networking (IE intermittent, and two-way) traffic, which is not the case for broadcast – commercial radio, television.

    And I have to wonder just how much of his frequency hopping magic is already in use. The obvious example being cell phone spectrums and handshaking.

  10. zuzu says:

    Information Theory is not some scheme ginned up to keep information from becoming free. It is Science. Bandwidth is a real and limited resource, no matter what some might wish to believe.

    Indeed, but look closer into the issue here. David Reed is basically rehashing his end-to-end principle, which is the fundamental principle that makes a heterogeneous network like the Internet possible at all, and applying it to how the radio spectrum is used across the domains of space and time. The FCC acts like a “smart network” trying to apportion in advance monopolies on efficient use of the spectrum, while cognitive radio and software-defined radio allow for a “dumb network” where effective use of the whole spectrum for transmitting data is determined dynamically by end-users through real-time scanning of what’s already in use within range at that moment. c.f. ultra-wideband (UWB)

    The dumb network (and the end to end principle) was conceived of as an antithesis to the idea of a centralized intelligent computer network in which all applications were under central network control. A synthesis is taking place in the concept application aware networks or as they are sometimes called context aware networks. These networks allow intelligent devices to set up end to end applications as in the dumb network. However they are aware of application needs and in the social and enterprise context in which the applications are being used. Thus the network can make decisions on resource allocation conflicts in light of the collective needs of all users and the purposes (social and enterprise) that guide them.

    Advocates of dumb networks counter the first argument by pointing out that prioritizing network traffic is very expensive, both in monetary and network performance terms; also, advocates consider this a bandwidth problem and not a network protocol issue. The security argument is that malware is an end-to-end problem and thus should be dealt with at the endpoints, and that attempting to adapt the network to counter attacks is both cumbersome and inefficient.

    “In a world of dumb terminals and telephones, networks had to be smart. But in a world of smart terminals, networks have to be dumb.” — George Gilder, in The Coming of the Fibersphere, Forbes ASAP, December 7, 1992).

  11. kc0bbq says:

    The man in the quoted article above may have an interesting idea on the philosophy of the spectrum, but obviously little technical know-how.

    “It’s not even a set of pipes with their capacity limited by how wide they are or an aerial highway with white lines to maintain order.”

    It is exactly a set of pipes with their capacity limited by how wide they are. The white lines are the practical applications for a given band of frequencies. Information takes up space. Even in a closed system with now potential for interference, like fiber optic cable, you are limited by the frequency of light you have available. With radio transmission you don’t even get anywhere near those frequencies, so you can carry even less data even if you had the entire spectrum to yourself and some way of building antennas that could send and receive it all and receivers that could operate in more than a narrow bit of the spectrum.

  12. ROSSINDETROIT says:

    OT subject of radio controlled turntable will be pursued on Untitled 1.

  13. Brainspore says:

    There are better reasons to be wary of the transition than a bunch of confused grannies at Best Buy. For one thing, almost all of the battery-powered portable TVs out there (you know, the kind people rely on during emergencies) are analog-only and can’t be connected to converter boxes.

  14. ROSSINDETROIT says:

    I think we got hosed on the digital tuners deal. I know a lot of people with serious chops in electronics manufacturing. The consensus seems to be that if you had to make 70,000,000 of something as simple as a digital tuner you should be able to sell them for $10.00 and make a profit. They’re selling The cheapest ones for $50 for which you get a $40.00 coupon so what’s the big deal? It’s costing you $10.00. The big deal is that the $40 coupon is your money. Tax payers are funding the coupons and the coupon distribution program.
    I think what’s happening is a backhanded deal in which the taxpayers pay off the electronics manufacturers to the tune of 2.8 billion dollars to give up analog and design new tuners. That’s the only conceivable reason to pay $50 for a circuit board and a few connectors: it’s mostly bribe.

  15. ROSSINDETROIT says:

    Thx for the additional info. That looks interesting. More comment later in the eve after I’ve digested it.
    Solder must flow…

  16. dculberson says:

    Zuzu, but don’t radio waves interfere with each other? Even with a “smart” receiver like a wireless card you can still get interference from analog or digital sources that are using the same frequency.. The solution is to “channelize” which is actually just slightly different frequencies within the range allotted to wireless networks.

    Is there some way you can have ten different 100,000 watt transmitters all on the exact same frequency and somehow receive only one of them, perfectly clearly, just through clever receiver design? I don’t know of any way, and if it hasn’t been made then it’s not possible yet.

    I think the quotes you’ve posted lean toward philosophy and away from technological solutions. But I could be wrong.

  17. Waterlilygirl says:

    Well, we all know from past posts that there is a “Who Cares” attitude about us analog users. I don’t have cable tv. I don’t have the option for FIOS in my town and I don’t have Direct TV. I’m a rabbit ear girl. I don’t see the point in paying for something that ultimately is free. But now we are on the verge of the transition. So I go and get my converter boxes for my 2 tv’s. I hook them up with my $45.00+ antennas and guess what? THEY DON’T PICK UP ANY CHANNELS! Nothing, oh, wait, I got NBC for like a second. So I exchange the antennas and try a different kind. Guess what? Still nothing. I’m tired of people bitching about how it’s only grandma who isn’t going to be able to watch Antiques Roadshow and how she’s going to be horrifically confused by it all. Who cares if the date has been pushed back? Well I do! I did everything right, I hooked up the boxes properly (which I did NOT use goverment funded coupons for), I bought better antennas, I tried moving the tv’s and antennas to different areas to get a signal. I am not an idiot and tend to be better than most at figuring shit out and I still can’t get squat. So I’m just putting it out there that there are some normal, smart, can figure how to hook up a box, people out there that will be shafted by this whole conversion. I rent. I don’t have the option of hooking up a 50ft antenna tower in the yard. I am happy that it has been pushed back. I know that eventually my two tv’s will become DVD and video game monitors and I will have to catch my favorite shows online seeing as I live in some crazy digital dead zone.

    I’m just tired of this being a topic. I’m annoyed that I will have to pay to continue to use my tv’s that I paid a lot of money for years ago. I’m annoyed that some channels are already at such a low analog signal that I can no longer pick them up. I’m annoyed that I ran out a month and a half ago so that I was prepared for something that doesn’t work and because of Best Buy being total douche bags I’m stuck with the crappy boxes I bought because they’re over the 1 month return date. And I’m tired of people bitching about the date change. There are some of us that welcome it.

  18. zuzu says:

    @17 KC0BBQ

    You’re aware of cognitive radio, right?

    Reed prefers to talk about “RF [radio frequency] color,” because the usual alternative is to think of spectrum as some large swatch of property. If it’s property, it is easily imagined as finite and something that can be owned. If spectrum is color, it’s a lot harder to think of in that way. Reed would recast the statement “WABC-AM has an exclusive license to broadcast at 770 kHz in NYC” to “The government has granted WABC-AM an exclusive license to the color Forest Green in NYC.” Only then, according to Reed, does the current licensing policy sound as absurd as it is.

    But if photons don’t interfere, why do our radios and cellphones go all crackly? Why do we sometimes pick up two stations at once and not hear either well enough?

    The problem isn’t with the radio waves. It’s with the receivers: “Interference cannot be defined as a meaningful concept until a receiver tries to separate the signal. It’s the processing that gets confused, and the confusion is highly specific to the particular detector,” Reed says. Interference isn’t a fact of nature. It’s an artifact of particular technologies. This should be obvious to anyone who has upgraded a radio receiver and discovered that the interference has gone away: The signal hasn’t changed, so it has to be the processing of the signal that’s improved. The interference was in the eye of the beholder all along. Or, as Reed says, “Interference is what we call the information that a particular receiver is unable to separate.”

    But, Reed says, “I can’t sign on to ‘It’s the receiver, stupid.’” We have stupid radios not because we haven’t figured out how to make them smart but because there’s been little reason to make them smart. They’re designed to expect signal to be whatever comes in on a particular frequency, and noise to be everything on other frequencies. “The problem is more complex than just making smart radios, because some of the techniques for un-confusing the receiver are best implemented at the transmitter, or in a network of cooperating transmitters and receivers. It’s not simply the radios. It’s the systems architecture, stupid!”

    Previously:
    * David Reed to FCC on open spectrum (July 11, 2002)

    David “Cognitive Radio” Reed has posted his comments on spectrum allocation to the FCC on his website. Reed is part of a group of sharp technologists who are advocating that the FCC needs to radically reconsider the way that the RF spectrum is divided up for uses like TV, radio, cellular etc. Reed argues that by switching over to an Internet-like packet-radio network where nearby radios cooperate to share the task to getting all the wireless data — including video and voice — to where it needs to be.

    Internetworking (on which the Internet is based) consists in understanding that information is independent of the medium that carries it, and can be represented in a universal digital representation — the bit. What the Internet has taught us is that we need not design communications systems for voice bits that differ fundamentally from systems for video bits — instead, by carrying all kinds of traffic over whatever links are available, we can achieve a high degree of efficiency, both technically and economically. Interoperation between networks removes unnecessary transaction costs, enabling new applications to reach economically viable scale without the overhead of purpose-built networks for each new application, and enabling existing applications to be improved in an upward compatible way while allowing legacy versions to coexist.

    Digital signal processing is the use of extremely inexpensive and rapidly improving digital technology to handle all aspects of processing signals, including tuning, modulation, coding, and compression, among other functions. Since digital technology enables complex and adaptive algorithms we are able to approach closer and closer to the theoretical limits involved in manipulating and perceiving aspects of the physical world — in the case of radio, directly manipulating and sensing the electromagnetic fields that can be manipulated to carry information. The result has been a dramatic reduction in costs to implement efficient and adaptive techniques such as CDMA, spread spectrum, ultra-wideband radio, agile radio, power management, etc. At the limit, radio technology approaches the point where each radio is a “Cognitive Radio” that can sense its electromagnetic environment directly and modulate electromagnetic fields directly in time and amplitude.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Grammar/spelling police here. Anyways is not a word, in all cases it is anyway.

  20. Anonymous says:

    WaterLillyGirl:

    I agree 100%!

    I am pissed off that I can’t play the new Coldplay record on my 78 Victrola! I payed a lot of money for that machine back in the day, and just because I am 120 years old doesn’t mean I don’t like contemporary music. Every time I purchase some collectors vinyl edition from a pop-band, and try to play it on my 78, it sounds all squeaky like the chipmunks or something. Society has an obligation to make sure I can use my outdated technology forever!

    I am sick of the cold, heartless, uncaring bastards who would dare suggest that we can’t divert a few billion dollars from healthcare or education or some crap to press a few acetate disks for people like myself who simply can’t afford to buy a new record player.

    And don’t even get me started on Best Buy being total douche bags and not letting me exchange my 3DO for a PS3, just because its past the 1 month return date!

  21. TJ S says:

    RossInDetroit:

    Actually, all of the money fom the coupons comes from the proceeds of the airwave auctions, so it’s not taxpayer money. It’s (mostly) Verizon/AT&T money.

    I do agree that the conterter boxes are overpriced, though.

  22. ROSSINDETROIT says:

    WOO HOO!

    The first test run of PhonoBOt 4004 the radio controlled turntable has just been completed.

    Can I have my Mad Scientist merit badge now?

  23. TJ S says:

    @Ross (14):

    Wait, what? Or, to use a meme: Pics or it didn’t happen.

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