Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Convert or Die

Well, gentlefolk, this is February 17, the unoffical date of digital conversion. The government pushed back the deadline, but since we don't follow that law and order nonsense here on the outer edge of civilization, our local stations (by local I mean a two and a bit hour drive, of course).

Did you know Africa, as a continent, has better access to high speed internet than we do in the continental United States?

We now receive all the stations we used to, but no Fox affiliate. We actually get two of all the stations we used to, one of PBS, and still no Fox affiliate. Not from South Bend or Fort Wayne.

So tonight marked the first Tuesday I couldn't watch Fringe. I now know (because I looked it up) that there was no Fringe on tonight. But still. It is a symbolic thing. I also will never be able to watch any of the fun trash I used to fill the empty parts of my day with, like Hell's Kitchen and The Simpsons. Nor can I watch the good stuff, like House, perhaps Dollhouse, we'll never know on that count, and Fringe (did I mention Fringe?.

Why not just watch the online video, you ask? Because I would have to drive a half-hour and then sit at any location with wireless internet in order to watch the online episodes. That is a bigger inconvenience than it sounds. Imagine going to a library to watch television. There is some kind of social pressure not to do that. And I could go to Paul's dorm, but then I would want to laugh with Paul and watch Soccer Death Accidents, Funny on YouTube (not UTube).

I just e-mailed Fox 28 for help. Their online advice included changing antennas or changing converter boxes.

Let's do the math, shall we?

Digital converter boxes, without the coupons, cost upwards of $30. With the coupon, you get $20 off that cost, a $10. box. But the government is out of coupons, so if you go out and buy one now, you will pay $30. If you buy the one Fox 28 recommends in order to get their signal (oh, yes, it matters) you will pay more than that.

Now, in order for me to watch my VCR or DVD player without unscrewing the co-ax cable every blasted time, I need a switcher box, costing $24. Since Mom and Dad need one too, that is another $24. Assuming the average family in the US has at least two televisions, that is $48.

However, in order to use the switcher, we all need RFU adapters, and if you don't already have one, you will need to know the price of those for our little math project. Walmart had them at $20. Since we at our house would need two, that's $40.

Assuming you don't need a new antenna, those of us out here most likely will end up having to buy one, you have an overall price tag of $148. Even though we didn't pay $40. of that, the government did. So on our household alone, the companies that make all this junk (which we already had, so why did we need more of them?) have made a lot of money off all of us.

Over the last month, the cable companies have started advertising like crazy for us to switch over to them, because they will take care of all the problems of switching over to digital for us with their cable guy and his receiver. The TV stations are saying that we can go out and buy boxes without the government coupons.

Now, these are South Bend stations. In their viewing area is Elkhart, with its 15% unemployment. The largest in the country, gentlefolk. These people, on unemployment right now, are being told by their television stations to: 1) pay another bill, to the cable company, when they are worried about food and housing, not to mention medical expenses. 2) buy a new television. 3) buy a new antenna. 4) buy a converter box on their own, the cheapest option, but still upwards of $40 that could go to gas or food, or paying the mortgage.

That is sleazy. TV has always been free. Free to all of us, as long as you had the big heavy box that you watch it on. Now not only can we country folk not play on the internet like you people in your populated areas, we can't have television either. That's pretty sick, mean, cruel. We are being used while people make money off us. And, as usual, this does not affect the wealthy, who purchase new televisions and have cable already.

No, this hurts the poor.

This hurts the poor who were given more time to convert by the federal government, but refused it by local television stations that didn't feel like listening. They were upset that they had to keep two broadcasts going at the same time, and they did what businesses do. They chose to make their business happy, regardless of the people they claim to serve.

I could accept it as a part of my life if I could watch the same TV I used to have. At least with the same channels, I could be content. I don't need more, just the same. But since I have been refused that, too, I can only cry out to whomever will hear me in hope that Fox 28 will increase their signal and guarantee it beyond a 15 mile radius. That would be nice.


  1. Statistics show that poorer people are less educated. Unless you are a teacher or are employed in another profession in which making the world a better place is your main goal. People like us, well we are just poor and educated. Perhaps the government sought to help the people by funding a large-scale conspiracy to inspire people to read more and become better educated. Or not.

    Anyway, you are welcome to steal my internet and cable TV anytime you want. Sometimes I forget what it was like to live in the middle of nowhere....I try to bury that part of my past:)

  2. I don't have cable, but you're welcome to come steal wireless any time. Alternately, if there are a couple specific Fox shows you're wanting to watch, I can add them to my download list (I download the new episodes to something like 15 shows a week already, so it's not a big deal) and give them to you at K'mocha.