Ah, CTAM in Boston…outdoor cafes, speakers from other industries, networking overloads, Mark Awards, busy corridors…love it. But just before what we used to call Independence Day, I was on a panel at the Comcast Media Center when a Comcast employee in the audience asked a question that none of us had even begun to think about. The questioner aimed his query at Stephen Goldstein of Samsung and, although I’m paraphrasing, he wanted to know: "What happens after Feb. 17, 2009, when all of those 300 million or so analog TV sets will be obsolete? Has anyone thought about how to get rid of them?" He then recounted having to pay $20 to get rid of an old computer. Goldstein answered, "Ah, good question. I hadn’t really thought about that." Of course, nobody believes there’ll be a crisis at landfills around America on Feb. 18, 2009, but it’s a good question. After all, the federal imposition of the digital era will actually (if, of course, those astute legislators in Washington, D.C., stick to the date…something that should be the subject of many a cable office pool) have a couple of consequences…intended and otherwise. For example: The Digital Era will have made it to mid-morning (the dawn done passed; happened back in ’94). Over-the-air analog television will no longer exist. Local cable, congressional, Federal Confusion Commission, city council and utility commission telephone lines and e-mail servers will crash under the onslaught of complaints from die-hard anti-set-top-box folks with analog TV sets who represent the last bastion of yesterday’s digital apostates. Analog TV sets will start to be tossed out. While we know that few TV sets actually go to the great de-tuner in the sky (they migrate to smaller and smaller rooms or the garage and are tuned to fewer and fewer channels), the inevitable will happen and television households will begin to get rid of those CRTs. And, just for good measure and a look at possible things to come, California is requiring cell makers to handle the recycling of old handsets. Choice spectrum will be available for government auction (and, maybe, for logical public safety and homeland security communications?)…something broadcasters (and the NAB architect of the original transition idea to HDTV) never really believed would happen. And…for the unintended consequence: Cable systems will have an opportunity to get new subscribers (the analog apologists) and retain subscribers with multiple analog sets (in the other rooms away from their 50-inch-plus HDTV sets) if the industry can get smart about how many analog channels to retain and/or find a really cheap way to convert signals from digital to analog at the household threshold. Somebody is going to make a business out of TV landfills…

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