Local News

Cash for digital TV converter-box coupons runs out

Posted January 5, 2009
Updated March 9, 2009

— An unexpected spike in requests has sapped all the money from the federal program that offers coupons for digital TV converter boxes.

On Sunday, the program received requests for the last of the 51.5 million coupons for which Congress had allotted $1.34 billion. On Monday, it started a waiting list, said Meredith Atwell-Baker, acting assistant secretary of commerce.

Try out converter box, antenna early for DTV transition Converter-box coupons need waiting list

Analog TV sets without cable or satellite service need converter boxes to receive a signal after broadcasters begin sending only digital signals on Feb. 17. The coupons subsidize $40 of a converter box's cost, which can go up to $80.

The 7.2 million requests for coupons in December was "a larger number than we had ever predicted. We predicted 4.3 million," Atwell-Baker said.

By Monday afternoon, 103,000 people were on the waiting list, Atwell-Baker said.

Atwell-Baker said the agency expects that about 6 million more coupons will become available as already issued ones expire without being used. The coupons have a redemption rate of about 58 percent in recent weeks.

Those seeking to redeem coupons, though, could face another problem: Retailers could run out of boxes and face a shortfall of 2.5 million boxes, National Telecommunications and Information Administration officials said. Many retailers have stocked boxes based on coupon use.

Those who placed their requests by Sunday will receive their coupons within four weeks. Those on the waiting list were unlikely to receive coupons by the Feb. 17 deadline, Atwell-Baker said.

When consumers call to request coupons, they will be told they are being put on the wait list and given a reference number, which can be tracked online.

Atwell-Baker said that asking Congress for more funding was only one among many options that officials were considering to keep the coupon program going.


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  • ezLikeSundayMorning Jan 7, 2009

    You don't need a special antenna.

  • cheddarhead Jan 7, 2009

    We still have antenna tv and we are perfectly fine with it. We got the converter boxes and it does make the picture clearer. We also picked up a few extra channels. The problem we have now is that we get a weak signal and the station will freeze up or cut in and out. That part stinks.
    We will not buy other tv's, get cable, satellite or anything else.

  • cbarnett Jan 7, 2009

    sixstring - if you've got cable and it goes on the fritz, you'll have nothing without the box.

  • cbarnett Jan 7, 2009

    It doesn't much matter because your 'rabbit ears' aren't going to work with the box, anyway. The real cost is going to be in the fancy antenna you'll have to buy.

  • woodrowboyd2 Jan 6, 2009

    why must i that have a tv that works great for me be forced to buy something because someone else wanted it
    if you think i need to work just so you can have the tv stations you want then we must live in two worlds
    if you want more tv buy it for you not make me buy it with you

  • ranquick Jan 6, 2009

    Cable and Sat TV 1...Govt 0. this is something that should have never been approved until the system was fully functional and phased in.

  • dcatz Jan 6, 2009

    8VSB is still worse than QPSK. The American population should not be forced to beta test shoddy technologies because the FCC is more interested in protecting American patent holders than it is in choosing a proven and reliable technology (DVB).

    As for the digital transition being in the best interest of the people, that's not for the FCC to decide. That's for the free market to decide. The founding fathers of this country did not intend for the government to have the power to decide what things or technologies people used. It's antithetical to the very concept this country was founded on.

    As for digital OTA television being better, that remains to be seen. You can get more channels (such as the multiple UNC channels) because the videostreams are all compressed; usually to the extent that it significantly degrades the quality of the video defeating the point of HDTV. Anyone that has seen an uncompressed HDTV stream can attest to this.

  • RonnieR Jan 6, 2009

    Ward after the swithcover in FEB there will be no reason to pass through as the analog stations will be gone, with a few minor exceptions.

  • ezLikeSundayMorning Jan 6, 2009

    Not so far, but it hasn't been a week yet. I saw that at a friend's house, but we had worse with digital cable.

  • WardofTheState Jan 6, 2009

    I had about a 30 minute conversation with the engineer at PBS and he thought that perhaps we were located where the signal couldn't get picked up properly. We've never been able to get PBS clearly. Never had cable, either. We watch on a 20-year-old console model that I inheirited from my mother, still works great.

    Do you have problems with "stuttering" when using the converter box? Where the picture freezes?