Confusion Surrounds Digital TV Switch

by Matt Klassen on August 29, 2011

If you’ve stumbled onto this page in a desperate search to discover why your beloved television is giving you nothing but static, you’re likely one of the some 850,000 Canadians who do not subscribe to satellite or cable service, those who still depend on external antennas or “rabbit ears” for your analog television signal.

Unfortunately for you, the days of analog television are over here in Canada, as August 31st spells the official deadline for cable providers to finally make the full switch from analog to digital over-the-air transmissions.

It’s a long awaited switch that has promised, in the words of  The Toronto Star’s Michael Geist, to “advance the Canadian digital agenda, leading to higher quality digital over-the-air broadcasts, freed-up spectrum that could be used to facilitate greater telecom competition, and the promise of billions in new revenues to fund a national digital strategy.”

But with the deadline upon us, much of that promise of a greater technological future has been lost in a haze of bureaucratic bungling, a lack of information, and an almost complete lack of leadership; a vacuous lack of guidance that has resulted in confusion, delay, and conspicuous federal favouritism.

I have little doubt that this long awaited transition from the old frequency hogging analog signal to the relatively sleek and sophisticated digital signal will in fact be the boon it has been promised to be—although don’t be surprised it telecommunications companies still can’t create a stable and speed network with the added spectrum that will become available—I would simply wager that it’ll take some time to sort things out.

You see, for such an important technological transition it has so far lacked several key components: leadership, advertising, and consistency.

For one, this transition has had almost no federal leadership, with the government taking a distinctly hands-off approach to the transition, leaving the details of the transition largely up the individual cable companies themselves and the seemingly inept CRTC. In my mind, the Canadian government should consider itself fortunate that these companies have taken this transition to heart, as most will meet the transition deadline with ease.

This leads me to my second point, the issues of favouritism and consistency, as about the only major cable provider not to meet the deadline will be the Canadian government itself and it’s much maligned CBC. While apparently maintaining the strict August 31st deadline for all the private cable companies, the CBC has been granted another year to effect the digital transition, as it became abundantly clear of late that the national broadcasting company would not have the requisite funds it needed to switch.

While the switch itself promises to bring a better television experience for all—not to mention the added promise of better wireless networks—it’s this sort of bungling and double-standards that have left many in cable and satellite providers annoyed and many in the general public confused. There has been no federal support, little to no information given to the public, and little enthusiasm generated.

So, what had the promise of being a banner day in Canada’s digital agenda will likely come off as a disappointment, or it would if anyone knew anything about it at all.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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