So, I’m looking around trying to find something I haven’t seen 12 times on other pages (it’s been a slow week for news items – you can only gush over the same 3 things at the big magazines for so long), and I find something from the long distance echo department (a boyhood euphemism for I said this long ago, and now someone else is saying it!).

Over on BetaNews, a story from the television broadcasters states that there might have been a problem with their estimations about DTV coverage. Well, Homer Simpson figured that one out while sitting at Moe’s.

DTV broadcasters: Suddenly loss of signal could be a problem
The lesson of February 17, it turns out, could be that DTV signals could have been stronger after all.

A series of comments filed yesterday with the US Federal Communications Commission on behalf of the National Association of Broadcasters and the TV industry’s technology research laboratory, the Association for Maximum Service Television (MSTV), came to the conclusion that educating the American consumer about the existence of the digital TV broadcasting switch (now set for June 12) is no longer a serious problem. Much more serious, they contend, is the real possibility — one which broadcasters are apparently just now addressing — that certain viewers including those on the outskirts of analog broadcasting signals’ coverage areas may suddenly find themselves without service.

Seriously, doesn’t this attest to the fact that the patients are running the asylum?

“To strike an appropriate balance, stations that are predicted to lose two percent or more of their analog viewers as a result of a change in their geographic coverage area should have the flexibility to design the best way to communicate information, over-the-air, of this potential loss to their viewers, and, importantly, how to obtain specific information,” reads the comments of the two industry leading groups (PDF available here). “We would support having these stations include in weekly on-air consumer DTV initiatives of their choosing a notice, such as: ‘a small percentage of current viewers using an antenna to view this analog station may have problems receiving this station’s digital signal; you can go to www.AntennaWeb.org to determine this and to see what outdoor antenna type will best serve your specific geographic location.'”

It’s going to be more than 2% if my informal surveys are any indication. The entire setup of AntennaWeb.org looks as though it was set up by a second grader, who was from a disinterested third nation.

What broadcasters now perceive as the critical issue facing consumers is not confusion over the existence of the DTV transition, or the technology issues regarding how to acquire or use a converter box. In testimony before the FCC this morning, NAB President and CEO David Rehr stated that among cities where some analog stations did elect to throw the switch last February 17, the low amount of consumer confusion and panic made the switchover a “non-event,” as he put it, with fewer than one percent of viewers in affected areas placing calls to FCC call centers overall, and with certain cities reporting as few as 50 calls.

These were cities of population less than 200, already served well by DirecTV and Dish Network.

A key problem, however, as Rehr told the FCC, is the possibility of signal loss — that some viewers won’t get the signals from the channels that used to serve them. During Hawaii’s early switchover on January 17, the biggest issue consumers there reported to call centers, according to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, was the inability to get a picture.

Well, inability to get a picture was certainly off-the-radar, wasn’t it? What morons these guys are.

Currently, the FCC provides a live testing page for viewers to estimate the strength of signals for each DTV broadcaster serving a given ZIP code. But aside from virtual tools such as this one, the NAB would like for broadcasters to be able to notify viewers about the possible need for them to upgrade their aerial antennas. Some inside the Commission have suggested that stations mail notices to viewers in their area; but the NAB and MSTV are advising the Commission to avoid forcing stations to resort to mail campaigns, asking that it instead allow broadcasters to…well, broadcast the message instead.

Aerial antennas? (I certainly hope that is the article writer’s gaffe, and not the idiots at the NAB, or FCC.) Why not let the NAB tell the FCC , since they are having to live with a screwed up broadcasting system, and mandatory lowered radiated power, that the effective radiated power could be raised with an increased antenna height (again, this makes too much sense, so it probably is beyond the scope of their cognition).

A secondary problem some consumers may face, the NAB points out, is the likelihood that they’ll need to rescan the DTV spectrum for stations after new stations throw the switch. Currently, a DTV converter box retains a list of “found” stations in its memory, and only tunes to the stations on that list. That’s different from the analog days when viewers scanned the dial past dead-air for clear signals. Had every station thrown the switch on the same day, as originally planned, consumers might only have to scan the spectrum once. So now, stations are considering telling their viewers to keep scanning their converters periodically to check for new signals.

This never would have become a problem if the idiots had used the common number system already established, and told people back at the beginning of the DTV broadcasting that they were receiving station X on Channel Y  for the period before the full transition. It certainly would have been LOGICAL – but that is so.. non-governmental.

“Although we are still mining information from the February 17 transition of hundreds of stations to digital-only broadcasting to better prepare for the June 12 nationwide switch, information reported to NAB suggests that the number one consumer question [is] related to rescanning of over-the-air digital sets or converter boxes,” the comments report reads. “Therefore, the Commission’s proposal that television stations provide notice to consumers about the need to periodically ‘rescan’ when using over-the-air digital televisions or digital converter boxes connected to analog sets makes sense.”

Again, this points out the stupidity of the willy-nilly assignment of temporary frequencies used for the temporary digital broadcasting before the transition. But then, the government has not been guided by intelligent or logical people for quite some time – at least for the last 8 years, which covers the transmission periods for most people.

The information ‘mining’ should have been done years ago, before this was undertaken. It’s what intelligent people(‽) tend to call ‘pilot programs’.

So now the system is messed up for the foreseeable future. The official spectrum is in a shambles, and undisturbed reception will take a couple of years to work out. For many, who live in high signal areas, the problems will be minimal, but those who live on the fringes might want to hold on for a bumpy ride, as each person learns what screws up their reception, and what they need to do for themselves to alleviate those problems.

dtv reception map

It’s like a time before science all over again. A number of nut-ball ideas to increase reception will spring up, and will all have to be debunked. Also, the legitimate antenna industry will have a boom year – not enough to end the recession, but it will make the focus of many businesses that sell televisions service after the sale once again.

§

Update:

I see that I missed the URL tag for the (PDF available here) so
here – https://gullfoss2.fcc.gov/prod/ecfs/retrieve.cgi?native_or_pdf=pdf&id_document=6520199601

On the original article pages, someone else has noticed that the need for the spectrum space was contrived, and a grossly exaggerated problem.

•• The lack of a universal transition was NEVER the problem. —-
The problem was and has always been that switching to digital instantly cuts your effective range by 25% – and that’s when the transmission is tweaked for maximum reach. I will agree, however, that we are getting a perfect demonstration of the monumental incompetence that results from government interfering in the private sector for no good reason. (This seems to be the order of the day in Washington, and our country will suffer for it greatly, but that’s another story). NOBODY needed digital TV except the white space lobby. I used to think this concept had real promise but upon digging deeper I came to realize this technology has a long way to go before its practical. While I am all for some kind of ubiquitous wireless internet, government disinformation and the hijacking of reliable airwaves was not the way to go about it. The bottom line? If someone says “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you,” keep one hand on your wallet and another close to a firearm.Incidentally, there is no possible way the broadcasters were ignorant of this problem. I can only assume their costs are being partially defrayed by taxpayer dollars and therefore they were eager to use the transition as a way to save on equipment upgrades
. ••

and

••You miss the point, which is, that the entire undertaking was ill advised. Letting the FCC articulate the parameters for broadcasting is like letting Mrs. Smith’s 6th grade class in Peoria plan the NASA mission to Mars. ••

What I find so difficult to understand is the mindset that allows a bungling governmental agency to have full control over a part of their lives, and then deride others who have the intelligence to understand and the fortitude to speak up. – the oracle

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