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Welcome to STop, the Seattle Times Opinion blog where our editorial writers and editors share their evolving thoughts on a variety of issues. STop is a place where opinion writers and readers can exchange views and readers can learn more about how editorial positions are formed.

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September 21, 2005

Response to Inslee

A response to Rep. Jay Inslee's suggestion that when the broadcast standards are changed, making 70 million analog TVs useless for reception without a $100 translator box, that the federal government subsidize these boxes:

You're wise to question Jay's concern for the 70 million set issue. I attended the telecommunication forum he recently held on this issue and was amazed at how solicitious he was for the local TV station rep on the panel.

The first issue is the validity of that 70 million set number. It comes from studies sponsored by the NAB and must be regarded skeptically. Other surveys tell a different story. 85% of homes in this country subscribe to cable or satellite service, and thus have at least one set that will not be affected by the digital conversion at home (ie the provider will make the switch). A study by the Consumer Electronics Association, another interested party, estimates that 75% of the unwired sets are 2nd or 3rd sets used for video games or only with VCRs or DVD players. Again, eliminating the problem if true.

The second issue is why are we waiting four years to make the switch when authorities have identified UHF TV channels (62-69) that need to be vacated immediately for use by public safety agencies? This was identified as a national priority by the 9/11 Commission and the total breakdown of emergency communications in Louisiana during Hurricane Katrina indicates we haven't begun to solve this problem. Emergency communications staff tend to be cautious bureaucrats, so let me clarify the issue: broadcasters are dragging their feet on vacating the spectrum needed for public safety and they've been dragging their feet and inventing phony excuses for delay for almost 20 years (see Defining Vision, by Joel Brinkley for the whole story.) Even today, broadcasters are making the ludicrous claim that their signals are needed because they give people important safety information. Channel 4, maybe ... but Channel 62?

A woman in the audience put it nicely, asking the KOMO general manager whether his industry position would be acceptable to someone floating on a rooftop in New Orleans?

Freeing up spectrum alone will not solve the public safety communication problem, but it's a crucial first step.

Finally, as an aside, neither the Times, P-I or any Seattle TV station provided any coverage of 9-9 telecom panel at Seattle Center despite the fact that this issue will effect every home in America before it's settled.


Bart Preecs

Respond to Bart.

 
Posted by Bruce Ramsey at September 21, 2005 04:14 PM



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