Bridging the digital divide.

By Dan Lombardi of Portland, Oregon. Dan is the local DTV campaign coordinator for the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund.

Are you ready for digital TV?

Odds are most of the people that read Blue Oregon, like myself, don’t even own a TV and if you do, you most likely have cable ... right?

So, the idea of being ready for the digital TV transition on June 12th probably didn’t even cross your mind. At this point you would think that everyone in the country is ready for the transition, but that is not the case. According to Nielsen, 3.5 million homes nationwide are unprepared for the switch.

Right here in Portland 3.75% of households may be hard hit by the transition because they are not prepared. These households are not victims of their own laziness; they are victims of confusing information and rapidly changing technology. While most Oregonians get information from a variety of sources, including cable, some still rely solely on rabbit ears or a rooftop antenna for over-the-air television signals.

These are folks that can’t afford to buy a new television or sign up for cable television - many of which include fixed-income families, seniors, minorities and individuals with disabilities. They use television for access to critical emergency warnings, educational programming, and breakings news, things that we take for granted with 24-hour cable news cycles, BlackBerries, and DVRs.

As a society, we may not be able to close the digital divide, but we can certainly try to bridge it. That’s why a range of organizations in the Portland area, including the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund, the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization, the Urban League of Portland, PCUN, Hacienda CDC, the Center for Intercultural Organizing, the Latino Network, the Native American Youth and Family Center, and Self Enhancement, INC. are working to get the word out about the availability of a government coupon to reduce the cost of the converter box and helping to troubleshoot problems that arise.

With just a little over one month left until the transition all of these organizations need your help reaching out to these most vulnerable communities. They are coordinating coupon application drives, organizing converter box workshops, monitoring technical assistance hotlines, and calling on local volunteers to help affected communities.

To find out how to help, have your organization join on as a partner or for more information about the campaign, please visit the Portland DTV Transition Campaign website.

Comments

  • Vanilla (unverified)
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    Just posted my thoughts on Digital Divide too - a Singapore's perspective - a highly wired city state.

    Other views from Singapore at http://whatsayyouvanilla.blogspot.com/

  • Walter P (unverified)
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    Odds are most of the people that read Blue Oregon, like myself, don’t even own a TV

    Yes, that's right. The majority of us don't own a TV because we're too busy donning our black turtlenecks and driving our Priuses (Priui?) down to the latest Pearl District art gallery where we can sip Eurpoean-style espresso drinks and lament the current state of public financing available for avant garde installment projects. :)

    Nah, just foolin'. But seriously: Let's remember that there's a broader readership here (and, thankfully, in the Democratic Party) than just the intelligentsia.

    (And, of course, that's the well-received point of this post: that we can't leave the TV-watching rabbit-ears-using portion behind technologically.)

  • Mike Schryver (unverified)
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    An aspect of this that many people aren't aware of is that, completely separately from the over-the-air transition, Comcast is taking advantage of the confusion and using this opportunity to shut down their own analog transmissions for everything above channel 13.

    What that means is that even if you have cable service, unless you're renting a box from Comcast, the cable channels in the 14-73 range will be going away. Broadcast channels transmitted through Comcast won't be affected, as Comcast places those in the 2-13 range, but the other cable channels will only be available with either a box from Comcast or a digital TV.

    This isn't technically related to the government's over-the-air transition, but I suspect that Comcast is hoping that people who aren't currently renting a box from them will think that the disappearance of their cable channels has something to do with the government's transition.

  • Dan Lombardi (unverified)
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    Mike,

    Yes, that is an entirely valid assessment. When I am out in the community, I get this question a lot. In my opinion, this is poor timing by Comcast, but at the same time smart for their bottom line.

    LCCREF is making sure we can sift through this confusion and make sure people are getting the best and cheapest option available to them.

  • Ms Mel Harmon (unverified)
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    Comcast is evil. I have an HDTV with an HD Antenna but I haven't watched a TV Show live in years. It's essentially a DVD viewscreen. I use a broadband card for my internet. Comcast tries constantly to sell me their services. I'd rather have NO media access than use Comcast.

    But, back on topic---I'm glad to see that there are groups out there trying to help folks gain access to accurate information and assistance during this transition.

  • Joe White (unverified)
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    Dan wrote:

    "Odds are most of the people that read Blue Oregon, like myself, don’t even own a TV and if you do, you most likely have cable ... right?"

    This type of elitist attitude is what people despise about the left.

    Dan wrote:

    "These households are not victims of their own laziness; they are victims of confusing information and rapidly changing technology."

    Yes we get it already. You think they are too stupid to keep up.

    They nnnnnneeeeeeeeeddddddd you.

  • Mike Schryver (unverified)
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    "Yes we get it already. You think they are too stupid to keep up."

    No, not at all. There are lots of people with money who are just as confused about this, but they can simply go out and buy a new TV. It's the people who can't buy a new TV who may need help with this, including a lot of older people who don't keep up with technology. Nothing elitist about that at all, and even if there was, so what?

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    Hey Joe, would like to spell out what is remotely elitist about the following organizations?:

    the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund, the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization, the Urban League of Portland, PCUN, Hacienda CDC, the Center for Intercultural Organizing, the Latino Network, the Native American Youth and Family Center, and Self Enhancement, INC.

    I think the point is that the help is out there, because for some people...(Maybe not you. Who's the real elitist here?)...actually just don't get it and are truly confused.

    What is wrong with providing some no frills community service? I for one applaud these efforts and all the groups involved. In fact, I just signed up to help out.

  • David Lee Donnell (unverified)
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    OPB cut the sound from the aether almost two years ago! Public service indeed. Only those watching the NBA or NFL's commercial ridden pap will notice.

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