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Linda - According to an article in the NYtimes, a new study says that nearly six million people with digital receivers may still lose TV signals when digital-only broadcasts begin next February. The study by Centris, a market research firm in Los Angeles, found gaps in broadcast signals that may leave an estimated 5.9 million TV sets unable to receive as many channels as they did before the changeover. It may affect even those who bought the government-approved converter boxes or a new digital TV. To keep broadcast reception, many viewers may have to buy new outdoor antennas, the study found. The Centris study predicts greater disruption of service than government agencies like the Federal Communications Commission have acknowledged. The federal government estimates that 21 million American households have primary TV sets that receive only over-the-air signals. But it says most will continue to get a digital signal by means of a digital-to-analog converter box, which costs about $50 to $70. It is helping to underwrite the cost of a converter box by issuing $40 coupons. Centris said it looked at a more detailed method for predicting the coverage pattern of TV signals than the government had used.
Tom - However, the problems with reception could be far worse, according to engineers who have taken signal measurements. One study of the first HDTV station by Oded Bendov, the consultant hired to replace the broadcast antennas on the Empire State Building, found that digital signals did not travel as far as either model had predicted. Said Dr. Bendov: “For the people with rabbit-ear antennas, I would say at least 50 percent won’t get the channels they were getting,” “I would say a lot of people are going to be very unhappy.” Digital reception is more affected by hills, trees, buildings and other interference than analog has been. An analog TV picture degrades gradually, getting more snow or ghosting as a signal becomes weaker. But digital TV is subject to the “cliff effect” — the picture is excellent until the signal gets weak and the picture suddenly drops out. The number of sets that the Centris study projects will fail varies from city to city, based largely on the landscape. In Las Vegas, which lies in a flat basin, the study estimates that 2.5 percent of over-the-air TVs would lose at lease one of five major networks. In Philadelphia, which has more hills, 5 percent of over-the-air TVs would lose reception, while in St. Louis, 10 percent would lose reception. Centris says, based on the F.C.C.’s data, a digital signal would travel 60 to 75 miles in those three cities. However, Centris says its own model showed that the signals would degrade at 35 miles. Centris also estimated that of the 117 million TVs not connected to cable or satellite, up to 80 percent have set-top rabbit-ear antennas that may not be able to pull in an adequate digital signal. Many of those sets will require a better antenna or a cable or satellite connection to do so. Electronics manufacturers say the quality of the TV’s receiver and converter will play a role.
Linda - According to the Holland Sentinel, the Cable Board in Holland, Mich. Has sent a letter of dissatisfaction to Comcast Cable Company due to the proposed move of public access channels and complaints about customer service have city officials unhappy with their cable franchise. The commission voted during a special meeting Tuesday to send a letter to Comcast expressing its dissatisfaction with the company’s customer service and laying out its expectations for the future. Said Jodi Syens, the city’s cable liaison and member of the Commmunity Access Television Advisory Commission: “It’s discouraging when people tell you they hung up after 20 minutes on hold.” Syens also criticized Comcast’s plans to move public access channels to the digital tier, saying that “This change was rushed. It was not thought through carefully and call centers were not prepared to handle this and to me that’s not right.”
Tom - Federal and state suits temporarily barred Comcast from moving the channels. Michigan House bill 5667 would stop Comcast from making the move until the federal government requires broadcasts to be digital in 2009. Bill cosponsor state Rep. Arlan Meekhof, R-Olive Township, says public access channels must be available “without the need for any equipment other than that necessary to receive the lowest tier of service.” Responded Comcast Director of Communications for Michigan Patrick Paterno: “We’re not taking these away from anyone, we’re just putting these in a digital format.” Comcast Government Affairs Manager for Michigan John Gardner told the commission:“There’s a general march from analog to digital,” and that Comcast has since changed the process for requesting digital converter boxes — that allow analog TVs to understand public access channels. Comcast currently serves 1.3 million customers in Michigan, and according to the Holland Sentinal article, a rate hike anywhere from $1 to $8 is slated for the March bills of Comcast customers.
Linda - According to an article in the magazine Information Week, the CIA has been monitoring YouTube. U.S. spies, now under the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), have become major consumers of social media while increasingly looking online for intelligence. Said Doug Naquin, director of the DNI Open Source Center (OSC), in remarks to the Central Intelligence Retirees’ Association last October: “We’re looking at YouTube, which carries some unique and honest-to-goodness intelligence,” “We’re looking at chat rooms and things that didn’t exist five years ago, and trying to stay ahead. We have groups looking at what they call ‘Citizens Media’: people taking pictures with their cell phones and posting them on the Internet.” In November 2005, the OSC subsumed the CIA’s Foreign Broadcast Information Service, which housed the agency’s foreign media analysts. The OSC is responsible for collecting and analyzing public information, including Internet content.
Tom - According to the article, not everyone in the intelligence community sees the value in open source intelligence. But further acceptance of open source intelligence, of the Internet and social media, seems inevitable in the intelligence community if only because traditional media is becoming less relevant. Noted Open Source Center Director Naquin: “What we’re seeing [in] actuality is a decline, a relatively rapid decline, in the impact of the printed press — traditional media,”. “A lot more is digital, and a lot more is online. It’s also a lot more social. Interaction is a much bigger part of media and news than it used to be.” The Information Week article notes that despite its name the Open Source Center hasn’t proven to be particularly open with its findings. According to Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists project on government secrecy: “One area where Mr. Naquin’s Center falls short, in my opinion, is in public access to its products, which is very limited “I know that there are some copyright barriers to open publication of foreign media items. But there shouldn’t be any such barriers to release of the Center’s own analytical products. And yet they are hard to come by. I hope this is one aspect of the Center’s activities that will be reconsidered.”
Linda - The news service Reuters is reporting that a key House of Representatives lawmaker voiced concern on Thursday about the scant bidding for an important piece of the airwaves being auctioned by the U.S. government. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell said the Federal Communications Commission was “having real problems” finding a bidder to meet the minimum price for the “D” block of 700 megahertz wireless spectrum, which is to be shared with public safety agencies. Dingell, a Michigan Democrat, said in an interview for the Reuters Regulation Summit that “They seem to be having real problems in terms of getting people who say they can meet the requirements with regard to police, fire and public safety while at the same time paying the proper price,” Under rules set by the FCC, the winning bidder for the D block spectrum would have to meet a $1.3 billion minimum price, and then negotiate an agreement with police, firefighters and other public safety groups that would give them priority use during an emergency. Bids have surpassed the minimum levels for other blocks in the 700 megahertz auction, pushing the proceeds so far to a record-setting $19.1 billion. Under FCC rules, winning bidders will not be identified until the auction is over. But there have been no offers for the D block portion of the airwaves since the beginning of the auction on January 24, when one bid came in for $472 million.
Tom - A key potential bidder for the D block airwaves, Frontline Wireless, dropped out earlier this month. Frontline declined to say why, but analysts blame it on a shortage of financing. Other potential bidders in the auction range from entrenched carriers AT&T Inc and Verizon Wireless, to possible new competitors like Internet company Google Inc, EchoStar Communications Corp and Cablevision Systems Corp. Verizon Wireless is a joint venture of Verizon Communications Inc and Vodafone Group Plc. If no other bidders reach the $1.3 billion minimum, the FCC could re-auction the D block spectrum and possibly modify the network-sharing requirement or lower the minimum bid. Dingell said it was too soon to say what the FCC should do if the D block spectrum does not sell. But he did question whether the agency had done a good job in setting up the sale of the D block, saying:“I’m not going to say that it indicates mismanagement. I’m going to ask you though: Does it indicate good management? And I have to say if that question is asked of me: It doesn’t.”