Saturday, February 7, 2009

Maybe letters do make a difference

The US is currently undergoing a transition from analog television broadcasting to digital. In fact, the government netted 17.8 billion dollars by selling those soon-to-be available airwaves to wireless networks. A small portion of the airwaves will be allocated to upgrading emergency communications.

Our cut-off date for the whole country was to be February 17th, 2009. President Obama stepped in and Congress followed, pushing the date back as optional, to June 17th. That meant some stations of their own choice may continue to use those analog airwaves until the latter date.

We have been one of those families caught in the cross-hairs. We live in an extremely rural area-meaning, out in the sticks-amongst some lovely rolling hills. We watch very little television, so we don't have a satellite or cable (if cable TV even comes down our line). We rely on a set of battered rabbit ears to pick up PBS and our local CBS affiliate. Those were the only two stations that were clear enough to view.

A couple of months ago I tried to order some converter box coupons over the phone. After ten minutes of tediously responding to computer prompts, I finally reached the point where I could provide my address. I was told in monotonous computerized detail how to provide my street address or PO Box. I have both, but I opted to use my PO box, where I prefer to receive mail. The computer then asked if I lived in an area where I couldn't receive mail at my residence, such as an Indian reservation, etc, etc, and I replied, "No."

Wrong answer. I was immediately informed I was not eligible for coupons and rudely disconnected. I was given the option to appeal the decision online, but since we have two TV's; one digital and one analog, I figured we would just hook up the rabbit ears to the digital when the time came. The digital is currently used for video gaming only.

Then PBS announced they were going to cut their analog service early. The night before that date, I hooked up the rabbit ears to the digital, and was thrilled to see that we could get a couple more analog stations in that location, although not very well. Then I started the search for digital signals. Nada. That's right, we can't get ONE digital station here without upgrading to a rooftop antennae.

As if temporairily crippling myself didn't already preclude climbing a ladder to install a rooftop antennae, there is also over a foot of snow and ice on our roof at the moment. And the way things go here in Maine, there will most likely be snow and ice there until May. LOL. So we were faced with no TV after February 17th.

As soon as I heard that Congress finally agreed to June 17th as optional, I was e-mailing my only remaining TV station. I asked them to please delay their switch until June, explaining the dilemma with the snow and antennae, but omitting the personal details of being personally temporairily handicapped.

I received a nice email back within a few hours, and the station had not made a decision, but my email would be circulated at the meeting along with other concerns. I was thrilled to hear the next day that the station had decided to delay until June 17th at extra cost to themselves for maintaining double transmitters.

I checked their website this am, and found a poll regarding how ready folks were for the switch. 22.63% of the responders had indicated that they were NOT ready. Or, 1:4-1/2. That was a lot more people than I would have guessed!

Now, we could certainly survive well enough without TV in this house. But, there are a couple shows that we look forward to sharing together as a family. "Big Bang Theory", "King of the Hill", and "Ghost Whisperer". We have also been looking forward to the new Survivor-which might be questionable family fare, but there are plenty of opportunities to discuss what is good and bad behavior . LOL. For me, I also watch the local and national news nearly every night while cooking supper.

I mentioned this small amount of time to the station in my email. In their announcement, they included the statement that they felt they had an obligation to the public to continue broadcasting in analog so that viewers could have access to emergency information. So, I don't know how much of an impact, if any, my email had upon their decision, but I was quite satisfied with the outcome. I would just recommend that if an issue is important to you, strike while the iron is hot and voice your opinion. Someone's got to speak up once in awhile...

Speaking of which, I am still mulling over (take my own advice, don't I?) how to handle complaining to the clinic over the open jar of burn cream they used on me. I really won't feel at ease until I have expressed my views on that. I tried looking up guidelines on the internet last night without much success. The best I have so far is an email reply from a relative who works at one of the largest hospitals in the country, formally as head nurse of the ER. She stated,"no one uses community jars of burn cream anymore except perhaps third world countries."

Maybe the clinic figures Maine fits that description...*roll eyes* I bet some third world countries get more TV stations over the air....

While I would love to finish on that note, I have to add something else about Maine. Our two senators, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, have been in the national headlines lately. Particulary Susan Collins, who has been instrumental in shaving down Obama's enormous economic stimulus package to help get it passed. Yeah, she's a Republican, but I voted for her-go Susan!


Wood Mouse said...

When Digital switch over occurs here, I too will be stuck as I am not allowed to fit an external aerial to my rented property. Well I can but only by paying the landlord an extra £200 ($340) deposit. So by 2012 I will not have any TV.

On the burn cream, I asked a Nurse friend of mine about that, she was over with her boyfriend from Dublin where they now live. She told me that if that happened in the NHS, as that’s a cross contamination risk, the person doing so would face disciplinary action. Possibly even the sack. So while I can understand you not wanting to “rock the boat”, it may be that the managers need to know that practices like this are happening, as they cannot stop what they don’t know about.

I am glad to hear that your Senator is going beyond politics and is thinking of the nation and the wider good. Now if we can borrow a few decent politicos for here...

~~~~~~Tonia said...

My dear darling Hubby Drives me Insane with the Digital TV. He insist we got one of th eowrst Converter boxes and we dotn get the signal well and we need to get a better antenna!!! I am like Life wouldbe so much more peaceful With out the TV!!Lol We watch Survivor here too. we started it years ago and there have been sometimes we have shut if off because it got so Unfamily watchable.. it seems like they clean it up the next time around..
We watch CSI too.
I would be concerned to about the open container of burn cream!! They should not have used it!!!

tree ocean said...

Sorry to hear I am not the only one suffering digital TV woes. :(

Thanks for your support about the burn cream. Early on in my injury someone that was helping me discouraged me from action.

On a letter to the editor of the local rag he replied: better not sign it or you will be barred from every doctor's office in the county.

On confronting the clinic head he replied: should I go in disguise when I take you to your appointment?

My final response: I will take myself to my appointment and call you later (NOT). He got the hint. Haven't heard from him since. :D