Tech Daily (subscription) reports that congressional action on the DTV transition is stalled "on how to craft a subsidy program designed to ease the transition to digital television for Americans with limited means."
On the one hand, this is not surprising -- politicians rightly do not want to be held responsible for making scores of television sets go dark. On the other hand, plunging into a television universal service system should be done with trepidation and care, if at all.
It would be valuable to know whether the subsidy is needed in the first place. As our Myths and Realities study showed about telecom, many recipients of subsidies have the means to do without them. Second, great care would need to be taken that the universal service program doesn't metastasize into a permanent program of television universal service subsidies.
We should be willing to tolerate quite a lot of unlovely compromises to accomplish the DTV transition. But that ransom must not be given away too richly; nor should it be the springboard for a long-lasting tax and subsidize system.