For many people who live outside the city limits and even for many within the city limits the transition from over the air Analog to Digital TV transmission has been a nightmare.
With analog transmission, even when you could not get a great picture you could still hear the broadcast, which many people do to hear their local news. They do not watch a lot of TV either because they’re busy doing other things or can not afford cable or satellite service. Many people further out of town that do have satellite but do not have cable listen to local TV news broadcasts using a Multi Band Radio. But that all went away in June 2009 when Analog broadcasting went away except for a small handful of low power UHF TV stations who are still allowed to transmit in analog. Those handful have very limited coverage areas and all automated programming. So by June most over the air customers went and bought a converter to use on there analog set or bought a new Digital TV.
Everyone soon discovered when they scanned for channels either there was no service available or only 1 or 2 channels. The other ones they got where gone, no matter what type of fancy digital ready antenna they bought. Radio listeners where totally out of luck as TV no longer uses that VHF band they listened on. People who bought portable Digital TVs to use while camping or at the summer homes also found themselves out of luck as well.
So what’s going on? The problem is in the digital service itself. It has a much smaller service area and unlike analog where you could use a tuner to bring in the channel, once you are out of the digital contour wave there is nothing there to tune in. With digital its there or not, no exceptions like with analog. So now we have many citizens who are unable to tune into a local broadcast during an emergency in there local area.
Yes they can sometimes get local channels on satellite but often times not. So now what? No problem we just tune in the good old AM/FM radio. But this is also a problem with so many stations playing canned automated music and talk no one is at the studios to give emergency information or news as to what is going on. Now what the only option left is a Weather Radio ,which can let you know about bad weather approaching and can also let you know you need to evacuate because a poisonous cloud from an industrial accident is approaching. This is only if the local emergency agency is smart enough to know that they can do this by contacting the weather service. The only other way to get info would be if you had a dial up internet account. Or if you’re lucky you have satellite based internet or your cell phone has internet enabled. Yes our friends outside the city and in the country are now on there own thanks to the digital revolution they have been left behind and in danger.
Will we now have to have the Digital Rural Act like we did the Rural Electrification Act in the 40’s to bring electricity to rural areas? It appears so. They still heavily use Citizen Band Radios, CB’s in the country because cellular service is spotty at best. So while the digital age was suppose to bring all these great services to the masses it is once again the haves and have not’s. This also goes with digital radio as well. The Big AM radio stations like KDKA 1020 AM which broadcasts in both analog and digital can not be heard at night out side of its home county on a car radio because the digital hash noise. I was recently visiting a friend in Erie Pa and on way home at night I used to be able to hear KDKA loud and clear. Now its not there. Nothing but noise and its digital signal bleeds digital hash noise over to close by stations at 1010 and 1030 making them not being able to be heard as well. Using the current digital technology at night is a bad deal for AM instead of using Ibequety they should have used DRM Digital Radio Monadial like they are using in Europe. But when do we ever use common sense in this country?
Yes we now have a bigger digital divide than ever and putting more peoples lives at risk than ever before, but we have HD American Idol.
Article by Nick Markowitz Jr