By M. Grant Winston, Managing Editor

The US Senate has passed a proposal by Senate Commerce Chairman John Rockefeller (D-West Virginia) to delay the transition to digital television from February 17 to June 12. He says that people just aren't ready. The bill would also allow more $40 off coupons toward digital converter boxes to be issued. I have a big problem with this. People who are not ready for the changeover now won't be in June, in 2010, in 2011, or ever. They are confused by anything remotely technical, and have VCRs flashing 12:00. These people will never "get it" until their TVs make snow no matter how many millions or billions of taxpayer dollars are spent trying to explain it. It also doesn't help that most of them think "converter" means "cable box".

Other people want something for nothing. They are so lazy and shiftless that they want a free converter box left on their doorstop like a phone book. We should do nothing for people who think they are owed a free lunch.

Worst of all, delaying the switch will delay the transfer of some frequencies that TV has used, but emergency services will. Police, fire and other first responders need this valuable bandwidth now. TV is frivolous.

There is yet another matter to consider here. Frequencies that aren't being given to emergency services have been sold to AT&T and Verizon. A contract should be a contract. The government should not be able to just weasel their way out of it, and spectrum auctions will be about as credible as a fish story once they have gone back on their word.

Congress's priorities are completely backward. This changeover has already been put off too many times. Let's get on with it. Continuing to delay makes a clear statement: Emergency services are not important. The idiot box is.


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