Canadian regulator fears digital TV transition 'crisis'

Sometimes it's hard to believe that the U.S. and Canada share not only a long, friendly border but, for the most part, a language. Last year the U.S. underwent, with some hiccups, a transition to digital television. Cable and satellite providers acquired some new customers and some people who got snowy pictures with analog antennas got better pictures with digital antennas, once they figured how to work the products.

Now the Canadians are planning the same move, and it's tough to believe they were paying attention to their neighbors in the south--because panic is setting in up north before the first analog signal is switched off.

"My great concern is that the industry will not be ready," said Konrad von Finckenstein, chairman of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). "There will be requests for delays, we will have a crisis on our hands. It must not be allowed to happen." If he was paying attention, he would have noticed that delays were the order of the day in the U.S. before the switch was finally pulled.

Worst of all, Finckenstein said, he fears that the 900,000 Canadian households that rely on over-the-air TV won't be able to receive digital signals and another 44,000 won't have access to TV at all without a satellite dish and "it's politically untenable to say you have no choice, you have to go to satellite," said Finckenstein, who said he feared a "widespread backlash" if people who currently got TV for free were force to buy cable or satellite.

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