The High-Tech Texan Blog

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

TV Converter Box Coupons Are Here!

Now I can't wait to go buy a box so I can watch the 4" TV in my garage. That's really the only analog TV I own but is it really worth the money to buy a box instead of buying a small new TV that receives digital signals?

Probably so considering a converter box from Wal-Mart is only $9.87 after I use my coupon. Yep, I requested them online in early January and they arrived in the mail today.

Got to love the government. They could have simply printed the coupons on paper but they probably spent $40 bucks alone on pressing two plastic gift cards per request. C'mon, people! Only thing I can guess is that it stops fraud by not being able to duplicate them.

To recap the dealio with the TV Converter Box Coupon Program, on February 17, 2009, all TV stations will cease broadcasts of analog signals and go completely digital. This means that analog TVs will be obsolete, so anyone with antennae or rabbit ears would no longer receive TV signals.

People with satellite and most with cable boxes (and yes, U-verse boxes) should be unaffected. Instead of forcing everyone in the US to buy new TVs that don’t already have digital signal capable equipment, a $40 coupon for a converter box is being offered here:

The coupons and accompanying letter are pretty straight forward. It lists several stores within your nearby ZIP code to redeem them. It also lists about 35 different boxes the coupon is eligible for.

The only thing I don't like is the coupon expiration date. They expire 90 days after they are mailed. By the time I got mine my window was down to about 2 1/2 months. I like taking time to shop and may decided later this year to chunk my analog TV for a digital model. If I have to buy the box soon I may not need it come February 2009.

But I'll go get one to test it out. Most all local Houston stations are already broacasting in digital so the converter box won't go to waste. Are you going to request and redeem a coupon? Comment below....


I've been hot on AT&T's advanced TV service since they rolled it out here last year. Fiber to the home or to the neigborhood is pretty darn fast plus their channel line-up is very strong. As I've been saying on my show, if you can get it...get it.

Local U-verse subscriptions will soon increase by 1,000 in one fell swoop with this announcement about the University of Houston's Master Plan:

The University of Houston and AT&T Inc. today announced the nation's first planned deployment of AT&T U-verse services into student housing on a college campus. The cutting-edge TV and high speed Internet services will be included in every room of a 547,000-square-foot residence hall under construction for graduate and professional students.

The Calhoun Lofts, next to the University of Houston's C.T. Bauer College of Business, will contain more than 700 one- and two-bedroom apartments with 1,000 AT&T U-verse connections, along with 10,000 square feet of retail space. School officials chose Internet Protocol-based television (IPTV) as the next-generation video service best suited for the university's next-generation living space.

The university's new $108 million residence hall broke ground in fall 2007 and is scheduled for completion in 2009.

I work with AT&T on several projects so I have been fortunate to speak with local executives often for the inside scoop. They are furiously hiring new installers to keep up with the demand. Now there's a nice problem to have.

In an email to me this morning from VP/GM Ed Cholerton, he responded to my questions on how they went about securing this deal and if more similar deals are in the works.

We have a great partnership with them on a wide variety of fronts...from services we provide them to funding their telecommunications technology lab. That partnership, coupled with their desire to foster a leading edge image for prospective students, led to their decision.

Obviously we're happy about it. Although its the first one we've done, we expect that we'll have lots of future opportunities as well.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Good News for Business iPhoners

For all you business emailers who have yet to by an iPhone because it can not send email through a Micorsoft Exchange server, this news is for you.
Apple Inc. announced on Thursday that it has licensed protocols from rival Microsoft Corp. to add Exchange support to its iPhone.

"We're building Exchange support so you get push e-mail, push calendaring, push contacts, global address lists and the ability to remote wipe [the iPhone]," said Phil Schiller, Apple marketing head.

No new applications need to be added to the iPhone, Schiller said, because messages, appointments and contacts transferred from a company's Exchange mail server will end up in the iPhone's existing e-mail, calendar and address book applications. "The same e-mail app, calendar app and contact apps that customers really love will get information directly from the Exchange server," said Schiller.
Why in the world couldn't Apple have done this last June when they released the iPhone? They would have sold a lot more units and made a dent into Blackberry sales which is currently the leading device for business users looking for seamless email delivery. Now we wait until this June when the ActiveSync update comes out.

You know this is big news when your IT Manager sends an email out to the company's iPhone users. Richard Gerlovich, the key gearhead at our Clear Channel Radio office here, sounded like he built his first computer or programmed his first BASIC instructions. Even the Director of AM Operations, the former Honorable Michael Berry (you know what I mean), sent a note out stating this news is so big that KTRH needs to be doing a live story.

Tune in tomorrow just after 8am where I will discuss with JP and Lana.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Philly WiFi "All Sizzle, No Cheesesteak"

This is a great headline from a story by Sonina Matteo on the NetworkWorld web site today. And very timely considering Houston is apparently getting back into the muni wireless game.

A year after Philadelphia gave EarthLink the green light to build a citywide Wi-Fi network, the grand plan to deliver ubiquitous broadband to tourists, residents, businesses, government workers and low-income households is in shambles.

The story continues with similarities and assumptions similar to Earthlink's deal with Houston...

Under the deal with the city, EarthLink made all of the investment into the network. The city has no financial skin in the game. EarthLink's revenue comes from selling short-term Internet access to tourists and visiting business people, plus service plans for consumers at $21 a month.

The contract that Earthlink signed has some other wrinkles that make the business plan look exceedingly shaky. EarthLink is actually paying the city $2 a month per access point (the company has installed more than 5,000). The company coughed up $1 million to help get the Wireless Philadelphia non-profit up and running. And it agreed to provide service to 25,000 low-income households at half-price.

Analysts are convinced that this business model simply can't work. "Whether city officials of Philadelphia would agree or not, the reality is that EarthLink's public access business model has pretty much died," says Peter Jarish, an analyst at Current Analysis. "What has to be understood is that this isn't an indictment of municipal wireless in general. It is an indictment of going in and trying to justify public access alone."

An interesting note to the Philly and Houston deals. Both agreements were helped along by consultant Brian Anderson. I met him last year during a meeting with Earthlink and City of Houston IT folks. He still lives in Philly and commutes to Houston. My recent attempts to reach Brian have yet to be returned.

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