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Tag: PBS

Broadcast Television: In Praise of a Relic

The latest incarnation of Apple TV has again fired up the “cut the cord” talk – killing off your obscenely-priced cable or satellite subscription.  The stranglehold is broken.  Cutting the cord is absolutely a trend.

Apple TV, for example, has now joined more than 100 other devices that support Netflix streaming, which allows unending access to a huge library of programming direct to your television.

Wired just issued a complete guide, fronted by Joel McHale (from NBC’s Community and E’s The Soup), about how to watch all the best stuff without cable or satellite.  Here’s another how-to-live-without-cable-or-satellite from (not as fun as McHale’s).  A Google search produces at least a dozen more.

What you want, when you want it, as often as you want it – it’s easier than ever and doesn’t require a $100 cable bill.  Just a little bit of new hardware, a high-speed internet connection, maybe some new software, some non-cable and non-satellite programming subscriptions …

Just don’t tell me it’s about saving money.

Broadcast tower television digital signal high definition

Go old school: harness high definition television in its cleanest form with a $10 antenna or even a paperclip - compliments of your local broadcaster.

High definition television in its cleanest, purest form is always available to you at no cost.  The signal gets no better than straight out of the air.  No expensive hardware to purchase (because you already own that 42″ HDTV).  No cable, no satellite, no high speed internet, no Hulu, no Netflix … no subscription required of any kind.

Digital broadcast signals are in the air and all you need to harness them is a $10 antenna (though a large paperclip will often suffice).  Again, high definition television in its cleanest, purest form can be brought into your home at no cost.

  • Yes, you’re limited in programming.  In most areas, though, you’ll get a dozen channels or more between primary and sub-channels, from such content providers as PBS, NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX, Univision, Telemundo and others.
  • Yes, you’re giving up some precious control, subjecting yourself to a linear broadcast with incessant commercial interruptions.
  • Yes, it’s ludicrous to imagine cutting a high-speed internet subscription.
  • Yes, you may want to augment your options with a sub-$10 Netflix subscription.

But … over-the-air television is absolutely free.  Right now.  All the time.  And it’s nearly 100% stupid-proof … just plug it in and turn it on.  It’s the true essence of passive entertainment.

If your mobile device was equipped with a DTV tuner, you could have it all available wherever you go – without paying for mobile internet access.

I know this sounds like the ramblings of your grandfather, but the point remains: if your argument and motivation for “cutting the cord” is financial, you must celebrate the role your local broadcaster plays in entertaining and informing you.

High definition television in a linear form is a relic.  And it’s absolutely free.

A New Low at High Speed

In case you were not yet aware: the US lags other developed nations in broadband and wireless infrastructure and services.  Our federal government is currently working on a National Broadband Plan to try to catch up – or at least to get into the game.

Sascha Meinrath, director of the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Initiative, criticizes the plan.  Meinrath says it’s “like entering a race and saying: ‘Let’s go for last place.’”  His organization is cited as the source of this info:  a 100-megabit broadband connection costs as little $16 per month in Sweden and $24 per month in Korea.  Meanwhile, service only half as fast costs $145 per month in the U.S.

Here’s a not-so-pretty picture from CNet News and the Communications Workers of America:

The US trails other nations in internet speeds

The US trails other nations in internet speeds

So, South Korea is among the leaders.  I’ve already taken an extremely indirect route to my point, so here’s a quick sampling of their many achievements in communication technology:

This leadership also comes with problems.  As illustrated in Frontline’s Digital Nation series, internet addiction among Korean teens and 20-somethings is a serious problem.  Kin to a young person falling off the face of the earth for a few days on a heroin bender, they disappear for great lengths into video games and virtual worlds by way of high-speed internet cafes (PC Bangs).

Now … a completely new low:

In Virtual Reality, No Child is Left Behind - by Greg Garvey

In Virtual Reality, No Child is Left Behind - by Greg Garvey

Here it is: a South Korean couple let their 3-month-old girl die of starvation, neglecting her in favor of raising a virtual child in a nearby internet cafe.  The real infant was fed once a day between “marathon sessions” in a “fantasy role-playing game.”  According to a police officer, the couple “seemed to have lost their will to live a normal life because they didn’t have jobs and gave birth to a premature baby.  They indulged themselves in the online game of raising a virtual character so as to escape from reality, which led to the death of their real baby.”

Isolated incident or microcosmic glance into the fallout of racing into all things high-speed, digital and virtual?  I think it’s more the former, but with overtones of the latter.  Regardless, this is a new low at high speed.

I’ve blown over a huge topic area on this one.  A few personal notes:

  • I spent much time as a child playing Atari, Intellivision, Colecovision and Nintendo (NES, 8-bit)
  • I find new technology interesting, exciting and challenging; I’m not an early adopter
  • To say that I strongly favor the real over the virtual is an understatement of high order
  • I’d probably be a Luddite if not for the fact that I help feed, clothe and house my family by working in marketing
  • I simply cannot afford to wake up ignorant of trends and opportunities presented by technology

Hopefully, these outrageous stories will give us pause before our perpetual hurtling into tomorrow at high-speed continues.

Note: “In Virtual Reality No Child is Left Behind” (image above) was created by artist Greg Garvey, whose digital work can be seen here.

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