U.K. Supermarket Sells STB for $20

There are several fears surrounding the U.S. transition to digital television broadcasting in 2009 and one of them relates to the set-top boxes that would keep old analog sets running. The federal government will attempt to allay that fear by awarding as many as two $40 coupons per household to help viewers buy the digital-to-analog devices. Judging from what's happening in the U.K., that looks pretty generous.

British supermarket chain Tesco has started selling set-top boxes for just £10--or about $20 at the current (abysmal) exchange rate. The Techwood-brand STB is associated with Freeview, which offers 40 digital broadcast channels and many radio stations for the one-time cost of the box. As the Guardian explains, "Freeview is regarded as a bridge between analogue TV services and digital TV offerings available via satellite or cable, which offer more channels and more interactive services."

Tesco also sells TVs. That's the amazing Belfast metro store in the pic. Oh, for a chance to buy produce in a place like that!

Just as the U.S. will make the final switch from analog to digital TV broadcasting in 2009, Britain is preparing for a similar switch. It will begin as early as this coming October in Whitehaven, a town in Cumbria, and the last analog signals will be turned off in 2012.

The fact that the U.K. can equip households with STBs for as little as twenty bucks, without subsidies, via supermarkets, should dispel some of the fear, uncertainty, and doubt being sown over the U.S. DTV transition. A cheap STB is a handy counter-argument to the technophobic anti-DTV scare tactics that will reach fever pitch as the date approaches for the long-awaited end of bandwidth-hogging analog broadcasting in the U.S.

Incidentally, the U.S. coupon took another step forward with the naming of IBM as the contractor to administer the program on behalf of the federal government. The company will handle consumer education, coupon distribution, and financial processing.

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