Friday, June 12, 2009

Digital Transition Equals Digital Divide

"It's the end of the world as we know it..." So go the lyrics and so begins a new chapter in America. The end of analog, over the air, TV and the start of all digital, all the time. For most of us, with cable or satellite, today will come and go without any impact whatsoever. But for those with limited resources, the poor, the elderly, it will mean the end of free TV. Despite the warnings, despite the chance to get a coupon for a converter box, millions may see their TVs become huge paperweights.

And this transition, this digital divide has the potential to lead to a huge gap between the haves and the have-nots. Cable hopes to use this transition as an opportunity to convert non-subscribers into paying ones. Some will finally succumb to the pressure and the lesser of two evils. You see, a converter box alone for over the air signals is not really enough. Your antennae will need to also be recalibrated and turned to be able to catch the digital signal. It might not be that easy. And so, they will learn to live without TV and lose their access to TV's content.

Is enough being done to soften this digital divide and assure that more homes are in the have category? The four month delay certainly helped. But it seems enough stragglers remain. And any divide can hurt this country. Those without tend not to appreciate those that have and some take to criminal activities to prove their point. Cable has a rare opportunity to do more at this time besides just making a buck. Offering free service to homes without cable seeking help getting their antennas and converter boxes to work is one way. Selling an extremely low price connection to broadcast stations only is another. Goodwill by these companies can go a long way.

And for those homes off the beaten path, too far to get a cable line installed; what will they do? In parts of this country, that is a real problem too. It may prove equally opportunistic for satellite companies to offer a similar option. Ultimately, it is about eliminating this digital divide so that every household, once again, has easy access to TV signals. Otherwise, this digital transition will cause an impactful digital divide in this country.

1 comment:

  1. When did TV become a right? :)
    It was about a half century ago that most homes didn't have this "expensive paperweight" and they seemed to do just fine with out it.
    Seriously TV and the internet are not something anyone on limited funds "needs to have".
    This boo-hooing about the "have-nots" not getting their free tv, which was never free to begin with, paid for by advertisers with the cost being factored in, or pay subscription TV we all paid at some tv, and not getting the new service, I don't have any sympathy.