The conversion to digital was mandated in order to free up the analogue frequencies for local emergency use. With cell phones sucking up the analogue frequencies, there was no room to expand fire, police and emt radio coverage. Calls were being dropped, people were being put in danger. It was not a money consideration, it was a safety issue. Think of it this way: they didn't mandate the use of digital, they forbid the use of analogue because that's what the emergency responders need.
Of course, digital over the air just sucks. While we have cable in most rooms, there is one room we haven't been able to connect: the kitchen. So, we bought a digital tv! No silly converter box for us, no...we want the digital TV...it sucks. The only thing that really comes in is PBS. Fortunately, I insisted the TV had to have a DVD player...my husband thought it was stupid, but now he calls it "the kitchen DVD player".
So...my guess is, it's not the boxes, it's the nature of the digital signal. Notice how they all tell you that you either get it or you don't as though that's somehow a good thing? If the reception is the least bit disrupted, you get nothing.
Oh, thank you, yes...that's so much better than at least getting something!
Fran, have you ever been evacuated due to an emergency? I have. I've also packed up and been read to evacuate the minute the TV told me I should (though, the first time, it happened so fast we just looked out the front door and said "FIRE! Grab the pets, get in the cars!"). Local television is critical if a community wants to survive an emergency well.
Additionally, the first time-- when we did have to flee--we were glued to the television for 2 days getting information on whether anyone we knew had issues (and if our condo was still standing). My sister's house burned to the ground...we got that from a TV listing of the addresses lost in her area and were able to relay it to her husband in the evacuation center which did not have a television.
Television is a critical communications tool in an emergency. Those trying to make sure everyone is hooked up are doing a good thing.
Thanks to Ron Salon for the signature banner!