Feb. 17: Inside the Meltdown

I got an e-mail Friday letting me know that Frontline was doing a show on Feb. 17 called “Inside the Meltdown.”

Can you blame me for thinking it was a documentary on the digital transition. It is actually a look at the economic transitioned from bad to worse.

The hydra-dated DTV transition callendar has more circles than there are under the eyes of DTV staffers trying to figure out which stations can cut off analog, when, and why and how.

The transition was never going to be seamless–sory Rep. Boucher–but it has become a rushed job that, if it is not a mess, does a great impression of one. Who could blame the FCC if it made a mistake or two in trying to implement the date change. It is almost inevitable.

I was somewhat bemused by the new challenges being place on the FCC and the National Telecommunications & Information Administration by the economic stimulus package.

NTIA, the group that has been roundly reamed for administering the $1.34 billion DTV-to-analog coupon program in such a way as to run out of money and helped prompt the DTV date-move and its attendant challenges, will be given $7.2 billion (the last figure I heard) in broadband grant money, and a lot of instructions on how to hand it out. It hasn’t even starting handing out all those backlogged coupons yet.

Then, the FCC will have to come up with a grand plan for getting broadband to every home in the nation, and do so at high speeds, and affordably and accommodating all kinds of public and private needs, and do so within the year. Michael Copps may be happy to have that “acting” in front of his nameplate given the challenges of the next year at that agency.

One FCC wag suggested a plan for making the transition to high-speed broadband: Set a hard date for the cut-off of dial-up.

Droll, very droll.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.