The big digital TV buyout

Philips LCD TV

This whole switchover from analog to digital television hasn't been going exactly as planned (we won't even go there), but Congress is mulling over the most perfectly American solution we've heard yet to get things rolling: buy everyone off. Senator John McCain just introduced a bill called the Spectrum Availability Emergency-Response and Law-Enforcement to Improve Vital Emergency Services Act which sets a deadline of January 1st, 2009 for broadcasters to stop analog broadcasts and completely make the shift to digital. But rather than leave millions of people with a completely useless box in their living room, it would also provide a billion dollars to buy anyone who is still actually watching broadcast TV (nearly 90% of households have cable or satellite) a brand new digital TV tuner (also note: all new TVs sold after 2007 will have to have digital tuners built-in, so it might not be that many people who end up qualifying for the handout). $1 billion sounds like a big giveaway just so people can watch TV, but it's good deal for the government since they'll be able to make tens of billions of dollars by auctioning off the soon-to-be freed up analog TV spectrum to wireless companies (and oh yeah, emergency services should get their own share of that spectrum, too, hence the name "... to Improve Vital Emergency Services Act").