Denver is on the lagging end of efforts to convert to digital TV, due to prolonged difficulties in getting zoning approval to replace a huge swarm of TV and radio towers on Lookout Mountain, which provide most of us with broadcast TV and radio in the metro Denver area, with a handful of digital ones. The local residents opposition makes absolutely no sense. The new design is better than the status quo. But, somehow, the entire country is supposed to convert from analog to digital television in 2009. This means that everyone with an analog TV receiving broadcast signals will need a converter box to use their old TV.
I'm a TV laggard. I have neither cable or satellite TV. Under the terms of a pending bill which is likely to pass the Senate, broadcast only television viewers, like me, will receive a $50 subsidy to buy that box in 2009. All I'll have to pay out of pocket is $10. The total program will cost about $3 billion. Hurray for me. But, I'm not entirely sure that this is the best use of scarce public funds. Still, considering that most people who rely on broadcast TV are lower income, and that a means test to weed out people like me would probably cost more money than it saves, I can't say that it is a horrible use of those funds. I feel better if it were paid for by a temporary tax on digital TV purchases or digital TV broadcasters, however.