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gwen
gwenix
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April 2011
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gwen [userpic]
Analog TV is dead! Long live ... yah, OK.

Analog TV is going away, and you can get $40 coupons for purchasing Digital to Analog signal boxes. Interesting news. I have a couple of disparate comments here.

So, how is most of the public supposed to find this out? Granted, this is set to happen by 2009, so there's two years to do this, but I watch broadcast TV and haven't seen this on the airwaves. Shouldn't there be public service announcements of this on the medium that will get to the people who, y'know, use it? What's the deal here?

Second comment is more one of confusion. I can't figure this out:

Digital television will provide consumers with a clearer picture, more programming and will free up much needed spectrum for advanced wireless broadband services and interoperable communications among emergency first responders.

OK, so it's the emergency first responders part that has me confused. So how is this different from dialing 911? Is this supposed to be some embedded signal to let people know when you're in trouble, whether or not you call it in? Or is it just piece of the spectrum dedicated to EMS communications? I don't know. I know that Homeland Security is funding this, so it could be any of the above or more. Anyone out there know more about this?

Anyway, I mostly just wanted to get this word out, since it's a fairly important announcement. Too important to leave unnoticed anyway.

Current Mood: quixoticquixotic
Current Music: refractions in the plasic pulse-Stereolab-Dots And Loops
Comments

Actually, a lot of emergency services are using more and more wireless communications devices in their work. Lots of wireless stuff to do things such as alert traffic signals they are coming, so they can change ahead of time to make it easier for emergency vehicles to get on the scene faster. That's the main one I remember, but I do know that emergency first responders are definitely starting to worry about bandwidth availability. Currently, they share the 2.4GHz spectrum, and that's rapidly getting eaten up by a wide variety of consumer electronics. If they can free up bandwidth from the UHF or VHF spectrum, and allocate it solely to emergency services, that would be a big help for them.

In short, this isn't dialing 911, this is stuff to aid the actual responders as they're doing their jobs, and yes, it would be just a piece of the spectrum dedicated to emergency services (police, fire and medical). Homeland Security would be involved because this would also allow for a portion of the spectrum available only to rescue workers that would not be interfered with by consumer products. (Plus, technically, police/fire/ambulance all fall under "Homeland Security" anyway).

Yes it is about communications between emergency responders and their dispatchers not between the public and 911 call centers. Just as wireless has exploded for tech users, it has also exploded for emergency workers.

Examples are (but not limited to): GPS tracking of individuals and vehicles (ie dispatch centers know where all their assets are at all times), better voice communications, automated medical record retrieval, automated medical status report (i.e, detailed medical information is sent to the hospital while the ambulance is in route), building plans forwarded to Fire Trucks while they are on route to a fire, weather reports for search and rescue, easier cooperation between air and ground units in search and rescue, photo and criminal record retrieval for police, automatic gun shot detection systems, live audio/video feeds for emergency personnel...

This is (ostensibly) about freeing up spectrum for first responders to use. There's some contention that this is more about broadcasters getting a government handout to move people to high-def, and a giveaway to communications companies. I have no (informed) opinion.

I'm sure the word will get out as things get closer and mainstream news picks up on the story. The interested broadcasters will start running PSA's; I bet by late 2008 we're sick of hearing about it.

If there were back room dealings, I don't think they were for the benefit of television manufacturers (who are almost entirely foreign companies) but instead for broadcasters like Viacom. They're already making the high-def investment; this allows them to cut the cost of maintaining analog signals (a boon to cable companies, too) and raises the barrier of entry for competition.

Again, I don't really have an opinion as to whether this is shady; I think high-def really is good for the consumer.

Since I don't think the converter boxes exist yet, the argument falls apart, and I really have to agree that this legislation is intended for the consumer.

I also agree that good intentions notwithstanding, I'd rather see the money go elsewhere.

"interoperable communications among"

Among, being the key word- they want to open up more bandwidth for long range two way radios and the like is my guess.

spectrum

OK, so it's the emergency first responders part that has me confused. So how is this different from dialing 911? Is this supposed to be some embedded signal to let people know when you're in trouble, whether or not you call it in? Or is it just piece of the spectrum dedicated to EMS communications? I don't know. I know that Homeland Security is funding this, so it could be any of the above or more. Anyone out there know more about this?

I think they are mainly talking about EMS/Police person to person radio communication. For one, due to physics, the frequencies that radio and TV currently use go thru building materials better than the spectrum the first responders currently use, and will in general travel longer distances over typical terrain for the same amount of power. This has all been in the works long before Homeland Security existed.

Great book I read on the topic, much more interesting than one would think:

http://www.amazon.ca/Defining-Vision-Battle-Future-Television/dp/product-description/0151000875

The true story is much more nefarious than you can imagine. It also tells the side story of the founder of RCA, who it turns out was a complete weirdo.

This date has already been pushed back several times, as explained in the book.

Brief summary: the UHF TV allocation eats up a shitload of useful spectrum. It's already been raided once; who else remembers when UHF went to channel 83, before that part of the spectrum was given to analog cellular (and is now involved in a battle for reallocation again...)?

The deal for the $40 coupons was just made yesterday, and I read it in all major online news sites I visit (nytimes, washingtonpost, etc). Of course they haven't blanketed the airwaves with commercials yet, it's hours old.

Plus no such digital converters actually exist yet, so the coupons won't do you any good until they do.

The DTV conversion plan has been in the works for at least the last decade. The FCC really wants that frequency available for other uses (as many other here have explained already, so I won't mention that part). The firm dates kept getting pushed back, but things started to take hold a few years ago. Here's where things stand (pasting from a slashdot post I made on the subject a few weeks ago):

The FCC has issued the following mandates for devices entering the US:

* By July 1, 2005 all televisions with screen sizes over 36" must include a built-in ATSC DTV tuner

* By March 1, 2006 all televisions with screen sizes over 25" must include a built-in ATSC DTV tuner

* By March 1, 2007 all televisions regardless of screen size, and all interface devices which include a tuner (VCR, DVD player/recorder, DVR) must include a built-in ATSC DTV tuner

* A Congressional bill has authorized subsidizing converter boxes that would allow people to receive the new digital broadcasts on their old TVs. The current plan is to make two $40 coupons available from January 1, 2008 through March 31, 2009 for each household that relies exclusively on over-the-air television reception.

* In the United States, the switch-off of all analog terrestrial TV broadcasts has been mandated for no later than February 17, 2009. Legislation setting this deadline was signed into law in early 2006. Currently, most U.S. broadcasters are beaming their signals in both analog and digital formats; a few are digital-only.


DTV converters exist today, but they're more for the "I have this HDTV 'monitor' and need to receive DTV/HDTV on it" crowd, rather than "I need to convert my old analog TV to receive DTV stations", so they're expensive (starting at $200 IIRC). I expect the prices to come down as manufacturers start making "cheap" DTV converters (IE, no HDMI ports or anything fancy: coax in, coax/composite out), and when the subsidies come in come 2008.

Sure, I just wanted to see verification that this was what is happening. I'm just naturally suspicious of anything Homeland Security related is all.