Sunday, May 29, 2011

Labor's plan to install Set Top Boxes for an average of $330 is crazy.

Today I decided to test how long it would take me to install and configure a HD Set Top Box. I decided to purchase a brand new unit so I had no knowledge of the product in advance. I am assuming that those who get the $330 (an average I’ve read) will know the equipment and be very experienced in setting up the Set Top Box, so should take less time than I did.

I checked the Doncaster East store for Target and Dick Smith. They didn’t have the model I wanted so I went to Dick Smith Shoppingtown. I decided to go with the Dick Smith HD Set Top Box GHP5926 which was on special for $10 off at $59.98. I liked this unit over cheaper units as it also has the ability to record to a USB drive (memory stick). Although that was outside of the scope as the main purpose of the government subsidy I think would be to continue enabling pensioners to receive free-to-air TV. This is fair as it isn’t the pensioners’ fault the government is closing down the analogue service and in all likelihood, the government is making money in some form by moving to digital and so it is fair to reimburse the needy.

The average cost for a basic and quite reasonable HD Set Top Boxes was around $59-$79 so they aren’t that expensive. Spending more may not be a good idea because if you do, you really need to consider your requirements better.

I arrived home, unpacked the Set Top Box and had it set up and tuned into the stations in 13 minutes. To be fair I was removing an older SD Set Top Box PVR so the configuration was similar. But given I’d never seen or used one of these units, there was a slight learning curve for me, I suspect this will balance things out with the experience installer.

For the government to spend an average of $330 per site is not justified. Why can’t the government just provide a voucher for a reasonably price Set Top Box that people could then use to purchase a unit. Most people will have a family member who can set it up. If they don’t, then give these people additional assistance.

The problem is the technician who is installing the Set Top Box will probably make very little and the large company who gets the contract will  make a killing at our expense.

I recently had to install a Set Top Box for a home user which took about an hour. The problem is Optus had come along and removed their service and left the client with all their equipment, DVD/VCR/Set Top Box not working and a pile of cables in a total mess. But in the situation where a Set Top Box would normally be installed it should be relatively easy.

There are two issues which could complicate the situation. The reception may be weak and in that situation additional technical help will be required. I expect those situations to be the exception rather than the norm. The other is that you should also provide some basic training.

The problem with the Set Top Box approach is it makes it more complicated for people. I’ve seen a number of elderly people struggle with the multiple controllers. A better option for most people would be to put the money towards a new digital ready TV and keep things simple. Old analogue TVs were seldom bigger than 26” and a suitable replacement would be a 32” LCD. The money for a lot of people would be better spent on a new TV and not a complicated Set Top Box set up. I’m sure many people would love the option of using a voucher for the Set Top Box towards part payment of a new digital ready TV.

If anyone in the Templestowe and surrounding postcode area requires their Set Top Box to be set up please contact me. Being local there is no call out fee. Just the time it takes to install the Set Top Box and if you want some basic instruction the time involved shouldn’t cost too much.

This is an opportunity where the government could have provided some better options in my opinion. By allowing people the option to purchase what they need, those people are more likely to use the services of local people and instead of the money going to big business, it could have helped a lot of smaller businesses across Australia. Even Dick Smith and other retailers I’m sure will offer an installation service if required at a much better rate.


I just hope the elderly amongst us don’t end up being greedy rather than needy. Yes if the government is giving something back it is hard to say no since it doesn’t happen that often, but is it right. The cost of all those low energy light bulbs was $10 per bulb for something that could have been done for a dollar or two and now we are all paying with higher electricity charges. What looks like a bargain may in fact cost you or your children more down the track.

Kelvin Eldridge  

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