Posts Tagged ‘Free TV’
An Ill Wind Blows No Good – Pete Putman
- Published on Friday, 02 November 2012 17:06
- Pete Putman
- 0 Comments
Memo to the Federal Communications Commission: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
As I sit and write this, it’s halfway through Day 2 of Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath. We’ve been without power since 7:20 PM on Monday night, when a large oak tree fell across the primary 34,000 volt power lines that feed hundreds of homes around here, breaking one cable completely and snapping a power pole in half.
The Asplundh tree guys have already been through with their chainsaws, and we await the PECO service trucks with some anxiety. The food in my freezer is finally thawing out, and most of it will have to be thrown away. We have a pretty good stockpile of drinking water and distilled water for cooking, plus gray water for flushing toilets. And there’s more than a half-cord of wood that can be burned in my fireplace to keep the downstairs temperatures in the mid-60s.
But we have no Internet access, as the fallen tree bent and snapped the combined Comcast/Verizon feeder cables on the same pole as our electrical service. Mobile phone service is spotty – many of the cell towers nearby are operating on limited emergency power with generators – and trying to access the Internet on my Droid phone takes forever.
With Comcast knocked out, I have no cable TV service. But I do have an ace in the hole: Unlike my neighbors, I have a few rooftop TV antennas and can watch over-the-air digital TV broadcasts from Philadelphia and New York City.
My antenna system is powered by a few Channel Master preamplifiers and the OTA signals are available in several rooms. To power everything, I have a large 700-ampere truck battery driving a Radio Shack 300-watt AC inverter I picked up years ago. The inverter also connects to a power strip in my family room, where I can charge my phones, my eBook readers, my computers, and power an Eviant T7 LCD TV.
After the storm passed through Monday night, the Eviant TV and a Hauppauge Aero-M USB stick tuner were the only ways I could get any updates on storm damage. The Internet and cell phones were either out of commission or unreliable. But I was still able to watch broadcast digital TV.
No doubt about it; Hurricane Sandy was an unprecedented Category 1storm. We were lucky to avoid the devastation of the Jersey Shore, as only 1 – 2 inches of rain fell in our area and most wind gusts were well under 50 miles per hour. Even so, our roads are littered with downed trees and many of them won’t be cleared for another week.
Not surprisingly, I ran into many people at the nearby convenience stores standing in line for coffee and clearing the shelves of milk, bread, and other supplies. A few of them expressed frustration with spotty mobile phone service, and of course everyone is at their wit’s end without Internet access. (How ever did our grandparents manage to survive storms all those years ago?)
When a few of my neighbors bemoaned the cutoff of TV service, I mentioned my antenna system and how it had withstood high winds to provide me with a multitude of channels, by which I was able to stay on top of road closings, weather forecasts, and see just how much damage Sandy had done to the immediate area.
I write this keeping in mind that Verizon, AT&T, and the CTIA continue to push the FCC to take away more UHF TV spectrum through auctions in favor of expanding mobile broadband service. Ironically, in a crunch, the only reliable electronic information service I have is over-the-air TV, and it looks like that will be the case for at least another day or two.
And this storm has provided a perfect example of why shared-bandwidth networks (cell phones and the public Internet) are simply not reliable during widespread emergencies: There are just too many people trying to use them, and falling trees and flooding can knock out a connection for days on end.
In contrast, it doesn’t matter whether ten people or ten million people watch a digital TV broadcast – the picture and sound quality are constant, and there is no network to overload and crash. And you can watch digital TV on a variety of portable devices, such as the Eviant LCD TV or a computer equipped with an appropriate USB stick tuner.
Our free, over-the-air digital TV system continues to serve us well in emergencies – Hurricane Sandy has proved that conclusively. And there are other ways to address the so-called “wireless broadband spectrum crunch” that the CTIA claims is imminent, such more efficient channel modulation techniques using time domain multiplexing and freeing up vast numbers of frequencies currently occupied by the federal government.
The bigger problem is that our current mobile phone services still have major reliability issues when disaster strikes. Perhaps the Verizons and AT&Ts of the world should concentrate their efforts on improving their existing networks for when the next big storm hits. What good is an expanded mobile broadband system if it’s still going to crash during an emergency?
Like I said at the start of this piece: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it…
Guess What? You Can Get Away With It!
- Published on Thursday, 12 July 2012 17:58
- Pete Putman
- 0 Comments
Earlier this year, Aereo – a start-up company financed largely by veteran media executive Barry Diller – launched its service whereby over-the-air digital TV signal from New York City stations could be converted to Internet streams and delivered to subscribers as MPEG4 video for about $12 per month.
The major networks (many DTV stations in New York City are owned by networks) quickly sued Aereo in court, asking for a preliminary injunction to shut the service down. The plaintiffs, which include Disney’s WABC, Fox’s WNYW, and Comcast’s WNBC DTV stations, argued that (a) Aereo’s service was a violation of copyright rules since Aereo didn’t negotiate any retransmission agreements with the stations or networks and the retransmission constitute a de facto public performance, and (b) the nature of the tiny antennas Aereo uses made them impossible to work correctly unless connected as part of a larger array – at which point Aereo’s system was essentially a cable TV system.
From the start, Aereo has claimed that each of the tiny, dime-sized antennas was assigned to a specific subscriber, and all they were providing was a souped-up antenna system – albeit one that converts the received signals from the 8VSB RF modulation format to baseband video, and then encodes it as an MPEG4 stream for delivery to Apple and Roku boxes; all on a individual subscriber basis. One antenna, one subscriber.
However, if more than one person was using any of the components in the system – antenna, receiver, or encoders – then a reasonable argument could be made that Aereo would have to respect copyrights like anyone else.
After all, the nascent Zediva “play DVDs over the Internet” service was shut down over similar arguments last year. Zediva had racks of DVD players installed which would be controlled by end users over the Internet to play, pause, fast-forward, or reverse movies, streaming video back in the other direction. All Zediva personnel would do is load the actual discs. But the courts shut that one down quickly, using copyright law as the basis for their decision.
I received a copy of the Southern District of New York court decision (American Broadcasting Companies Inc. et al and WNET Inc. et al vs. Aereo) from a lawyer friend and read it with fascination. Apparently, the plaintiff’s expert witness didn’t do his homework correctly when it came to the subject of whether the tiny antennas were actually capable of functioning by themselves (a key part of the case) or only as part of a larger array.
According to the court decision, this expert did not testify in court, nor did he provide a detailed description of his test procedure. On the other hand, Aereo’s two expert witnesses did rebuke his findings and testified in court to that extent. So his claims that the tiny antenna arrays could not possibly function on their own were ultimately rejected by the judge as they could not be supported.
The second part of the decision revolved around the argument that Aereo actually provided a remote DVR service inasmuch as any program being watched through Aereo could be time-shifted for later viewing to some degree. The earlier decision in Cartoon Network LP, LLLP vs. CSC Holdings (the ‘Cablevision’ decision) was used as precedent, in that the time-shifted OTA signals could not be watched by more than one household at a time and thus were not ‘publicly performed works.’
I’ll leave it to the lawyers to determine whether the time-shifting portion of the argument holds water. But I want to re-visit the antenna argument.
By designing an array of tiny antennas at their head-end(s), Aereo can make a claim that each antenna serves just one customer. Imagine you could install an antenna on top of a large building next to yours and run a very long coaxial cable to your TV set so you can get better reception. Under that description, there is no copyright or retransmission infringement.
But if you then install a splitter and feed the signal to some of your neighbors, that is an infringement of copyright, strictly speaking – even if you don’t get a dime for your efforts. So Aereo argues that they get around that fine print with their tiny antennas.
Readers who understand RF theory can take one look at the Aereo antenna and understand immediately that it is not suited at all for UHF TV reception, let alone high-band channels 7, 11, and 13 (all used in New York City). It’s just electrically too small and has no resonance or gain at the desired frequencies.
Aereo’s expert witnesses got around that little problem by saying that there was 1,000 times the required signal strength at their receive location to pull in a signal, no matter how inefficient the antenna might appear. If that’s so, then why the fancy design? Why not just create thousands of tiny loop antennas? They would work just as well (or just as poorly, for that matter).
The plaintiff’s expert witness apparently conducted a flawed test on a solitary Aereo antenna for direct OTA reception (he modeled it on a computer), although he did test multiple elements as part of the antenna array and at one point shielded other antennas around the array to see what effect it would have.
But Aereo claims he made a mistake in positioning the antenna arrays so that they were vertically polarized (edge-on) instead of horizontally polarized, as Aereo has the array installed. I do know from experience that there is a large change in signal level at UHF frequencies when polarization angles are changed, upwards of 10 dB or more depending on the antenna design.
From my perspective, there would have to be a ton of signal strength to force any RF through that small rectangular loop. And its proximity to other antennas in the array actually makes up a larger array, thanks for inductive and capacitive coupling. So there’s no doubt in my mind that the larger array outperforms the individual element. (I’d need to see the array up close first to determine what type of antenna configuration it was emulating.)
Nevertheless, the plaintiff’s expert witness did not testify in person and did not provide convincing evidence of his argument ts, so the request for a preliminary injunction was denied.
Aereo, of course, hailed this as a victory for consumers, saying in a statement that “Today’s decision should serve as a signal to the public that control and choice are moving back into the hands of the consumer — that’s a powerful statement.”
That statement may be a bit premature, as all of the plaintiffs have vowed to continue their suit. In a New York Times story, a CBS spokesperson was quoted as saying “This is only a ruling on a preliminary injunction,” the broadcaster said. “This case is not over by a long shot.”
What I’m wondering is how many of the Aereo subscribers have actually tried to receive New York City DTV stations indoors. In my tests with current model televisions in urban areas, it doesn’t take an awful big antenna to get a decent signal. Of course, you wouldn’t then have the ability to time-shift that Aereo provides with their service, nor would you be able to watch on your iPad, iPhone, Droid, or other internet-connected device.
Stay tuned for more updates on this story – this is only the tip of the iceberg.
Useful Gadgets: Channel Master CM-7400 TV
- Published on Thursday, 09 February 2012 14:45
- Pete Putman
- 0 Comments
For those readers who are either (a) tired of ever-increasing bills for cable TV, or (b) looking for a different TV experience, I’ve got a product for you: Channel Master TV.
This new product from the folks who were formerly best-known for TV antennas, amplifiers, and related products, is an ATSC receiver with dual DVRs (320 GB total capacity) and tuners, plus built-in WiFi connectivity for Vudu’s streaming HD movie service and Vudu apps. If you live in an area with plots of digital TV stations and are content to give up premium news, sports, and lifestyle channels (replacing some of them with Internet-delivered content), then you should check out this product.
WHAT’S IN THE BOX
The CM7400 is a stylish, small (10” W x 7” D x 1.75” H) black box with three ‘rubber duck’ WiFi antennas attached to its rear panel. The front panel has a black gloss finish and shows only the power indicator, current time, and indicator LEDs for menu navigation. There’s also a small USB 2.0 port above the clock.
The rear panel is loaded with jacks, including an RF loop-through (two ‘F’ connectors), component and composite analog video outputs, an HDMI output, a Toslink connector for digital audio, a second USB 2.0 port, a 100BaseT Ethernet port, and an eSATA connection, presumably for an external hard drive. Power for the CM-7400 comes from a small wall transformer – there’s no internal supply.
The supplied remote resembles those shipped by TiVo. It provides the usual secondary control of set-top boxes and other connected gadgets in your system, plus volume, channel, mousedisk, and numeric keypad functions. It’s actually pretty hefty, compared to the box it’s controlling!
To hook up the CM-7400, your best bet is to use the HDMI port, but if you have an older TV, the analog RCA jacks will suffice. Keep in mind you can only get 720p and 1080i resolutions through component jacks – if you want 1080p playback (24-frame or 30-frame), you’ll need to use the HDMI connector. Digital audio is accessible through the Toslink connector, or embedded in the HDMI hook-up.
MENUS AND SETTINGS
The first thing you’ll want to do is configure your channels. Go into the Settings menu and select Channels, and the CM-7400 will prompt you for your location. Scroll to the Local Broadcast option and select it (make sure your TV antenna is connected first!). The box will take a few minutes to scan for all local channels and will also start building program guide information from each station’s PSIP data.
You’ll notice that the box can receive digital cable channels that are not scrambled (conditional access) and if you enter your zip code, will ask you for your cable provider. The problem is; most cable systems are moving to scramble all channels in the future, even over-the-air retransmissions. It appears the FCC will give in on this request (they already have with RCN), so plan on sticking to free over-the-air channels.
The next step is to configure your wireless network. (Or, you can simply plug in a wired Ethernet cable, but wireless gives you more options.) The CM-7400 supports 802.11 b/g/n protocols and will connect quickly to your network – if there is a password, you’ll be prompted to enter it on the remarkably easy-to-read menu GUI, which uses mostly white text on a black background.
Channel Master provides a nice Quick Start Guide to get you through these steps, so you should be up and running pretty quickly. Now, it’s time to watch TV.
As I mentioned earlier, the CM-7400 uses each station’s Program and System Information Protocol data to build an electronic program guide. That’s how the DVR knows what programs are coming up in the schedule and when to record them. As you tune through each major and minor channel, you’ll see a program synopsis appear in a black bar at the top of the screen. This bar will list the major and minor channel numbers, the program name, its duration, the rating, and a brief description.
You can also press the GUIDE button and a complete program schedule for all receivable stations will appear, showing 30-minute increments. Scroll to a program listing and press OK, and the scheduler will appear, asking you if you want to (a) record the episode, (b) record the series (repeated scheduled recordings), (c) find other times that the program is scheduled, or (d) manually record the program.
The manual feature is handy if your local station isn’t listing program guide information correctly, or it is simply missing, a problem I had with local station WCAU-10 (NBC) a couple of months ago. Scheduling a manual recording without the correct program guide info is not an easy task, as you have to carefully enter a start and stop time and how often you want to record this time block (One Time Only, etc). For all recordings, http://reviews.cnet.com/internet-speed-test/ you can select the record quality, how long to keep it, and if you want the program to start early or end late in one-minute increments.
IN ACTUAL USE
The more I used this product, the more similarities I saw to the TiVo interface, which IMHO is the best GUI around for a DVR. About the only things missing from Channel Master TV are “thumbs up and down” controls, an audible “beep” or “boop” each time you execute a keystroke or command, and the program preference and search functions that make TiVo so powerful. Well, you can’t win them all…
As for the Vudu streaming and apps section, you will see a lot of familiar Internet TV services, including Pandora, Facebook, Picasa, Flickr, and some newbies like NBC Nightly News, New York Times, Associated Press, CNN Daily, and quite a few premium channels like Dexter, Californication, Big Love, and TrueBlood. Just select and click away to start watching.
To test out Vudu, I opened an account and purchased two movies – Bridesmaids (or as I like to call it, The Hangover on Estrogen), and The Help. Yeah, they are both chick flicks, but quite entertaining (in fact, Bridesmaids was flat-out hilariously gross!). Vudu gives you the choice of renting using HDX (1080p/24) quality, HD (720p) quality, and SD (480p) quality. The price difference is small, but you need to check first to see how fast your Internet speeds are.
Channel Master TV will do that for you automatically through the Vudu interface and recommend a quality level. But be warned – Internet speeds vary widely and typically slow down in the evening during peak viewing hours. My suggestion is to go to the CNET Internet Speed Checker Web site (http://reviews.cnet.com/internet-speed-test/) and see what your typical download speeds are during the day and at night. You may find that SD mode works most consistently.
My rule of thumb is – up to 2-3 megabits per second (Mb/s) is good for SD video delivery. Figure on 5-6 Mb/s to get 720p HD content reliably, and 8 Mb/s or better for 1080p video. Otherwise, you may find your movie stops abruptly and the Vudu screen will tell you it is “buffering” – something that can take a few minutes if download speeds drop.
Bridesmaids took four tries to start correctly, then played perfectly in HDX resolution until the past 10 minutes when it stopped and started “buffering” again. I dropped down to SD resolution to finish the movie and it didn’t look all that bad on my Panasonic 42-inch 1080p plasma. The Help ran smoothly except for one hiccup near the middle, but this time, I selected SD playback for the entire film. The reason? My average nighttime Internet speeds were dropping into the 2 – 4 Mb/s range.
As for over-the-air channels, the CM-7400 has a very sensitive receiver and evidently uses sophisticated adaptive equalization. What that means in English is reliable reception of weak stations or stations off to the side of the antenna, as well as good reception during periods of signal fading, such as during a thunderstorm. I was able to lock in and watch 38 different minor channels in the Philadelphia market, which is basically a small hotel cable TV system. And they’re all free.
Sports fans should also keep in mind that there is a growing cry to move all cable sports channels to premium tiers as cable bills continue to climb. You won’t need to pay to watch NFL games (available on CBS, NBC, and FOX through 2022), the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, selected major league baseball games and the World Series, SEC and Big Ten football, and the Olympics – not to mention the Masters golf tournament, selected tennis matches, and the Indianapolis 500. All free with an antenna!
I should mention that the test unit seemed to run a bit warm to me, even when it was switched off. One product review on the Channel Mater Web site recommended using a laptop cooler (external heat sink) to help with heat dissipation. Also, Channel Master released an updated version of the OS on January 18, which you should install and upgrade.
Channel Master’s CM-7400 TV DVR is a clever product that nicely combines dual DVRs with Vudu streaming. It has a nicely-designed and executed user interface, sets up quickly, and supports 1080p playback through its HDMI connector. You can also loop your antenna connection through the CM-7400 and continue to watch on your regular TV, giving you the ability to watch three programs at once while recording two of them. Clever, eh?
Channel Master CM-7400 TV DVR
Available at: http://tinyurl.com/7m6qbgk
And other online outlets including Amazon.com
- Dolby® Digital and Dolby® Digital Plus
- Dual ATSC/Clear QAM¹
- No monthly subscription fee
- Includes a one year manufacturer’s limited warranty
- 320GB Hard Disk Drive²
- Up to 35 hours of HD recording³
- Up to 150 hours of SD recording³
- Built-in 802.11b/g/n
- 10(w) x 7(d) x 1.75(h) inches
Rear Panel Features
- RJ-45 Ethernet
- USB 2.0
- Digital Audio (Optical)
- RF output
- RF antenna/cable input
- RCA component and composite video
- Stereo audio
Front Panel Features
- Illuminated power standby button
- Indicators for network status, HD and recording status
- USB 2.0
- IR receiver
- Capacitive touchpad
- Clock display
- Channel Master TV Unit
- User Guide
- Quick Start Guide
- IR Universal Remote Control
- AA Batteries
- Composite and Stero Audio Cable
- RF Coaxial Cable
- HDMI Cable
- AC Adapter
To the Federal Communications Commission: STOP! Enough, already!
- Published on Tuesday, 26 July 2011 12:09
- Pete Putman
- 0 Comments
I don’t normally get worked up by much that comes of out Washington, DC these days – it’s apparent that politicians have no limit to the levels they can sink to.
But the Federal Communications Commission’s ongoing effort to reclaim broadcast TV spectrum in an attempt to ‘solve’ a so-called ‘wireless broadband crisis’ has reached absurd levels. And it is time to call them out on it.
Let me first set the table by stating that, a long, long time ago in a country far, far away, the FCC was actually a respected organization that had some actual engineering expertise. The FCC was created in 1934 to replace the Federal Radio Commission. As part of the 1934 Act that birthed the FCC, it was charged with “..regulating the airwaves in the public interest.” Not in the interests of big corporations like Verizon, AT&T, Qualcomm, or Google. In OUR interests.
The interpretation back then was that the radio spectrum (television hadn’t made its debut yet) belonged to the citizens of the United States. And the FCC would regulate how it was used to the benefit of all.
As new communication modes came into existence, the FCC was there to test-drive them and ultimately approve them for everyday use. FM broadcasting, television, Doppler radar, satellites, cellular phones – all became an integral part of our lives after thorough vetting by the FCC’s engineering staff, many of whom (like me) also held amateur radio licenses and could ‘walk the talk’ then it came to the latest technical terminology.
The FCC also regulated ‘common carriers,’ i.e. telephone companies. They approved tariffs and made sure rural areas had access to service. When television took off in the 1950s, the FCC had the foresight to add more channels in the UHF spectrum, and when TV manufacturers were reluctant to add tuners to their TV sets to enable viewing of those channels, the FCC simply made them do it with the All Channel Receiver Act of 1962. Otherwise, the nascent UHF television broadcast service would have died a premature death.
I got my first amateur radio license in 1970 after playing around with pirate AM and FM stations in high school. Back then, you didn’t mess with the FCC, and the appearance of one of their dreaded unmarked gray vans in your neighborhood meant they were on to your illegal radio station – so you pulled the plug, and fast.
In short, the FCC was the perfect umpire for our nation’s spectrum. They knew the technology inside and out, they tried to balance the needs of big corporations with the little guys, and they made sure everyone responsible for a single radio emission knew what the hell they were doing, and were held accountable for it.
Today? The FCC is a joke. I never thought I’d say that, but they have become a laughing stock. They are purely a political organization that is rapidly losing its best engineering talent, and exists merely to identify more spectrum that can be auctioned off to private interests so that Congress can continue to fill its insatiable appetite for money. (It turns out, we do have the best politicians money can buy, as Mark Twain once pointed out.)
Need proof of how low the FCC has sunk? How about the two rounds of ‘white space devices’ testing that the Office of Engineering Technology undertook a few years ago? (White space devices are low-power gadgets for wireless connectivity of media players, TVs, and other goodies in the home, and are intended to work in the UHF TV band.)
All of the devices failed both rounds of tests. Many did not detect strong active digital TV broadcasts on the same frequency! Some took an eternity to scan for active channels.
In short, these devices clearly weren’t ready for prime time. The old FCC would have sent their manufacturers packing in a hurry.
But the ‘new’ FCC? Why, they approved the concept,saying in effect, “Even though none of these gadgets ever worked correctly, you all seem to be nice people and pretty smart, so we’ll assume you can fix the problems.” This, after virtually every manufacturer of wireless microphones, lobbyists for theme parks, Broadway show producers, TV networks, the NAB, church groups, and professional AV associations lined up against white space devices.
So now, just two years after the completion of a difficult transition from analog to digital television – one that has brought us better picture quality (well, in most cases) and free HDTV to communities all over the country, and one that gave up channels 52 through 69 to public safety agencies and private interests, like Qualcomm’s failed FLO service – the FCC wants to take away another 120 MHz (20 channels) of UHF TV spectrum for its manufactured wireless broadband crisis.
To do that, over 600 TV stations currently operating in the UHF TV band will have to relocate. Unlike the analog to digital TV transition, there will be no opportunity to ‘simulcast’ on a new channel while winding down operations on the channel to be given up. These stations will simply have to shut down, install new transmitters and antennas, run coverage tests, and only then light up again.
In a classic case of Orwellian language, the FCC is saying that broadcasters will be invited to participate in a ‘voluntary’ spectrum auction and decide if they want to give up their UHF channel in return for financial considerations. (Look how far we’ve come from the Federal Communications Act of 1934: The FCC is now offering bribes to get broadcasters to move, or shut down!)
Anyone who has ever dealt with the government knows that the term ‘voluntary’ is meaningless. If the FCC doesn’t get enough broadcasters to move, then they’ll simply change the rules to get those channels one way or another. It’s a sham.
How will this affect free, over-the-air TV viewers? Well, if you live in Syracuse NY, ALL of your digital TV channels are UHF. Ditto for all but channel 7 in Boston and San Francisco , Huntsville AL, most channels in Denver, Portland ME, most channels in New Orleans, all but one channel in Salt Lake City – well, you get the idea.
The question no one is asking is this: Why not look somewhere else for new broadband spectrum? What about the old analog cellular phone band around 800 MHz? What about the hundreds of MHz the government has allocated to itself on a primary basis for whatever purpose?
You see, the UHF television band used to go all the way to channel 83. But it’s been whittled down several times since the 1950s, and in fact broadcasters have already given back 192 MHz of spectrum for other services in the past 40 years. In my eyes, they’ve done their part already, several times over.
The UHF TV band is better suited for digital TV for a number of reasons. It penetrates into buildings better than high-band VHF channels 7 to 13 (forget trying that with low-band VHF channels 2 through 6). It is easier to design compact, high-gain antennas for UHF digital TV reception. And antennas for the new portable MH digital TV receivers are quite small – only 5 inches is needed for a quarter-wave antenna @ 600 MHz, right around channel 35.
Did you know that ALL TV broadcasting moved to UHF channels in Great Britain in the 1970s after the move to color TV? UHF TV channels were deemed to be much more suitable for the regional broadcasting services. Made plenty of sense then, and makes plenty of sense now.
But there’s no use explaining any of this to the FCC, particularly its chairman, Julius Genachowski. To me, he is the consummate political animal and bureaucrat. He is bound and determined to go after TV broadcasters once again and chop off another limb to satisfy his friends at CTIA and the big telecoms. And you will suffer for it.
One of the few really good deals left to recession-weary Americans these days – who are being nickel-and-dimed to death with monthly service fees for cable, satellite, broadband, and mobile phones – is free, over-the-air digital TV and HDTV. Many of you who have ‘cut the cord’ or are contemplating doing so, relying on a mix of OTA TV programs and Internet video, are going to get screwed if this so-called ‘voluntary’ spectrum auction and re-allocation goes through.
Apparently the FCC doesn’t care about saving Americans money, or supporting a diverse, 1700 station-strong free digital TV ecosystem that provides local news, weather, entertainment, sports – again, much of this in HDTV – without costing a dime. Nope, we desperately need more channels to fix our wireless broadband crisis!
Did you know that, in a candid moment last year, the head of Verizon said they weren’t using all of their channel capacity for wireless mobile phone and data service?
Did you know that the UHF TV spectrum is not the best choice for a wireless broadband service? (No, let’s instead move UPWARDS in frequency a few hundred megahertz.)
So, what are you going to to about it? Do you live in a TV market with mostly or all UHF channels? Do you enjoy watching free HDTV programs? Do you realize the disruption this FCC action will cause?
Then get on the phone, or email or write to your congressional representatives in the House and Senate and tell them to put a short leash on the FCC. Tell them to have a full spectrum inventory conducted and made available for public inspection.
Ask them why they would allow the FCC to take away one of the few good deals left to Americans during this time of economic stress, a TV service that more than 15% of the population relies on exclusively (over 30% among Hispanic households).
Ask them why the telecommunications industry gets what it wants, but the average John and Jane Doe – who were the supposed beneficiaries of the Communications Act of 1934 – are usually left holding the bag.
And tell the FCC this: STOP! Enough, already!