By David Lieberman
October 10, 2008 7:16AM
In an era of dazzling battery-powered portable devices including iPods, computers and cellphones, it’s hard to imagine what it’s like to be unable to catch the news and entertainment anytime and anywhere we want. But millions of people who own portable televisions, including those who depend on them when they flee their homes or lose power during hurricanes and other emergencies, may soon return to the dark ages. Virtually all of the nation’s 7 million battery-powered TVs receive analog signals. They’ll become useless after Feb. 17, when broadcasters must abandon analog and just transmit digital signals — unless the sets are connected to digital-to-analog converter boxes.
The problem is, the vast majority of converters must be plugged into the wall. That makes them unreliable in an emergency.
“Unfortunately, a lot of well-intentioned policymakers found out after the ink was dry that there were more (portable) devices and households affected” than they imagined, says Richard Doherty of The Envisioneering Group, a research and consulting firm.
That’s a “great irony” in the federally mandated move to digital TV, says Shannon Dunham, a communications specialist at law firm Sherman & Howard. Although the government “intended to reclaim the (analog) bandwidth for emergency use” — including police, fire and medical communications– “in the end, they’re going to affect people who get emergency information” from portable TVs. Radios equipped to pick up audio from local TV broadcasts also will lose those analog signals. The Red Cross says that it’s not worried.
“More people tend to listen to radio (stations) than watch TV in a disaster,” spokesman Jonathan Aiken says. Looking for Local News But many local disaster officials are apprehensive about the loss of portable TV at a time when lots of chain-owned radio stations have cut back on local news. “It is absolutely a concern of ours,” says Veronica Mosgrove, a spokeswoman for…
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Portable TVs To Be Left Behind in Signal Switch