Wednesday, June 10, 2009

You can thank Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda for the digital TV transition


The terrorists will score another victory Friday when U.S. broadcasters switch from analog to digital TV broadcasts.
The DTV transition is another victory for al-Qaeda, whose Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on U.S. soil led to the loss of freedoms here.
Because of Osama bin Laden and his followers air travel is now a colossal pain. That means taking off your shoes and sometimes belt at the metal detector. No more carrying liquids and certain toiletry items through security. (I had to pitch a perfectly good can of shaving cream last week thanks to alert TSA inspectors.) Then there are the politically correct, profile-free pat-down searches of little old ladies and other supposed threats. Oh, and no more greeting and dropping off loved ones at the airport gates anymore.
Plus, thanks to Osama and friends the government has permission to snoop on your phone calls and your library check-out activity.
Al-Qaeda’s latest victory in aggravating Americans is the forced digital TV transition.
The digital TV transition would have happened eventually, but al-Qaeda’s attacks, particularly on New York City, gave a political imperative to put an end date on analog broadcasts quickly.
The inability of first-responders – police, firefighters and paramedics – to communicate effectively after the attacks on the World Trade Center helped push through legislation for the government to regain the analog TV spectrum.
President George W. Bush signed the Digital Television Transition and Public Safety Act of 2005 into law on Feb. 8, 2006. Notice the addition of “public safety” in the name of the law. Politicians said freeing up the airwaves for better first-responder radio service would save lives.
They may be right. But probably more important was the money raised at auction from selling most of the spectrum to companies for mobile Internet services.
The Federal Communications Commission announced March 18, 2008, that the auction of so-called 700 MHz spectrum raised $19.592 billion for the government. That was nearly double the congressional estimates.
If it was just a money grab, Congress would have had a tough time pushing the legislation through. They knew the possibility of millions of Americans losing their TV signals in the switchover could cost them votes.
But the idea that spectrum would be freed up to help “America’s heroes” – the police and firefighters of New York and the country – softened the blow.
So if you’re unhappy about having to buy a converter box or upgrade to a digital TV set or subscribe to cable or satellite to avoid losing your TV programming, blame Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda cronies.

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