Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Only In America

The year is 2009 and there are a couple of events that took place in this country that will be remembered for a long time. On January 20, 2009 – Barack Obama became the first black American to take the oath of office as the President of the United States. Millions of people descended upon Washington, D.C. to witness this historic occasion and billions of people around the world had a front seat to history being made when they watched the swearing-in ceremony live on television.

Another television event took place in 2009 that some people never thought would ever happen. After years of planning and discussion – broadcasters in America finally converted from broadcasting an analog television signal to broadcasting a digital signal.

One of the reasons that broadcasters made the switch to digital was because of America’s need for more frequencies for cell phones and emergency services – frequencies that were being used by the television industry. One of the selling points for the switch to digital was the promise of a clearer picture and more programming choices….but the switch wouldn’t be easy. To get these new digital signals meant that we would have to purchased a new digital television set or a converter box that would allow us to watch the digital signals on our analog television sets.

Not everyone can afford to go out and plop from $399-$1500 on a new television set and our government knew that – so Congress funded a program that would give all Americans who asked for them – not one, but two coupons (valued at forty dollars each) for a digital converter box. You had to have been living under a rock if you didn’t see your favorite television station advertising the switch to digital and how you could get your free digital converter box coupons. Over $1.3 billion dollars was spent on providing these coupons so that America could continue to enjoy watching “free TV”.

Recently, I got a chance to see one of free digital converter boxes that was purchased with one of the two free coupons that a friend of mine received in the mail. One of the first things that surprised me was seeing how small this converter box actually was – I have read books bigger than this box was.

The other thing that surprised me about this converter box was actually something that was written on the cardboard box that it came in. There was a warning on the box about not returning the converter box to the store where you “purchased” it with the coupon should it be defective – because of the box was a part of a government-financed program. I could see millions of people using the free coupons, buying the boxes and then trying to bring them back for a cash refund – so that warning made sense to me.

What really surprised me about this digital converter box were the three little words that followed the warning about not returning the box to the store it was purchased…those three words:


What! Congress allocated more than $1.3 billion on digital converter boxes made in China! Don’t you think that someone in Washington could have put some sort of stipulation on who manufactured these converter boxes and had them made in the good ole U.S.A.? Imagine how many jobs could have resulted had they stipulated that the boxes be manufactured in America. Well, that’s Washington for you and another one of those “Only In America” stories that has us screaming at our elected officials – “What in the hell were you thinking?”

No comments: