Millions of $40 TV coupons now available from the government
But, you're not completely out of luck. As of yesterday, the US government is giving away 33.5 million $40 coupons to help people buy converter boxes (expected to cost between $50 and $70) so they continue to suck on the sweet electronic teat without interruption. No, don't call your doctor or wash your eyes out with bleach, you read that right: the US government is spending $1.5 billion to help people watch TV.
If want a coupon you can grab one online or by calling 1-888-DTV-2009. Don't worry about proving whether or not you actually need a coupon, because, according to the government, the giveaway works, essentially, on the honor system. I'm sure that's a fine idea. Whenever you combine "free stuff from the government" and "the honor system", you never run into any kind of trouble. I'm sure no one will order a coupon just so they can buy a converter to see if it blends.
My initial thought about this program was that it was a tremendous waste of tax-payer money. I mean, this isn't a bridge-to-nowhere or a unnecessary and possibly illegal statue of Senator Robert Byrd, this is paying people so they can keep watching television. That's like paying people to play the lottery or replacing the yearly fireworks display with an annual "hundred-dollar-bill burning", isn't it?
But then I saw that the old analog spectrum is going to be auctioned off to private companies. I'm not a hundred percent comfortable with only big companies owning the airwaves, but it does alleviate any worry that the $1.5 billion will be coming out of our pockets. You can rest assured that whoever pays for the old spectrum will be giving Uncle Sam a lot more money than that.
So, I'm only left with the current questions, hopefully answered by one of our wonderful readers:
1) I assume that this transition program is intended to help keep poor people watching television. But it's not just poor people that don't have cable; it's neck-bearded, turtleneck-wearing "intellectuals" as well. Should they be allowed a coupon? Further, if they do apply for a coupon, do they lose the opportunity to tell everyone within earshot that they "Don't watch cable, it costs way too much money, which I can spend on more important things like hemp necklaces?" This is an important question. By my own estimation, hipster douchebags account for approximately 7.1 million of the non-cable households.
2) Shouldn't the people have a say in what becomes of the 700 MHz spectrum that's going to be auctioned off? I mean, it's ours, right? I think we can all agree that TV was great and worthwhile for the 60 odd years that it had control of the bandwidth (with the possible exception of the UPN network), but who knows what's going to replace it! If someone cool, like Google gets it, then yeah, we can all be assured of something awesome (my bet is free teleportation, accompanied by little context-sensitive ads), but what if it's a lame company like Verizon? The entire bandwidth will probably be devoted to being able to download ringtones quicker. I think we should have a say in the matter.
(And please, don't tell me, "we do have a say... this is a democracy, remember!? Call or write your congressman!" I mean, this is a democracy, but this is also America [video mildly NSFW]. We don't call or write anybody unless we're retired and even then we just ramble on like Abe Simpson.)
3) How long will it be before this coupon program becomes a complete disaster? Two weeks? Four weeks? America waits with baited-breath for the inevitable resignation for all involved with an honor-based $1.5 billion television coupon program!