Rush on DTV-Converter-Box Coupons: More than 1M Requested
National Telecommunications & Information Administration: More than 500,000 People Requested Coupons in First 40 Hours of Program
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 1/2/2008 12:52:00 PM
Digital-TV converter-box-coupon orders are already growing like those McDonald’s hamburger tallies.
More than 500,000 people requested more than 1 million $40 coupons toward the purchase of DTV-to-analog converters in the first 40 or so hours of the program, according to National Telecommunications & Information Administration spokesman Todd Sedmak.
The requests were coming from every state in the union, according to Sedmak, and almost all were applying for the maximum two coupons per household. Owners of analog-only TVs receiving over-the-air signals will need converter boxes to receive a TV picture starting Feb. 18, 2009.
With the NTIA given enough money by Congress to subsidize a total of 33.5 million coupons, this means that if the furious pace were maintained, all of the coupons could be spoken for almost before the first ones hit viewers' mailboxes at the end of February.
But once the number exceeds 22.25 million coupons, the NTIA will have to dip into a second pool of money for the rest and limit them to only households that do not subscribe to multichannel-video services like cable or satellite.
That million-plus total was from online and phone orders. No requests have been received via snail mail yet, Sedmak said, and there were no figures on any faxed orders to date.
There is a message at the end of the ordering process informing viewers that the coupons will not be mailed until Feb. 17. That is one year before the DTV switch date and a date on which acting NTIA chief Meredith Atwell Baker told B&C she is confident that there will be converter boxes on store shelves (retailer participation is encouraged, but not mandatory).
The boxes are out. I have seen 2 types at Wallmart.
Both are limited to the basic functions. Remote / RF input / rf output/ RCA ports but they will tune in Digital TV only. So no easy swiching back to Analog unless you find one with an Analog bypass. The government has a list of approved MFG. So the choices are limited. So far only 6 sellers planned in my area. All about $50-$60. I read the coupon are only good until gone or March 2008.
GC - 2/10/2008 7:59:00 PM EST
My concern: Are the people who really need these coupons (i.e. low-income families with analog TVs) getting them? Are they getting the message?
Rich Sulin - 1/5/2008 11:57:00 AM EST
This massive response is indicative of the mismanagement and delays of the US government in the field of HD digital transition. The transition should have been this far along years ago.
We've had our set top box for a year but had to wait until the first day of 2008 to apply for a coupon, which will be shipped to me sometime in February. When I called the published tech support phone line there was nobody home.
author and architect
Bob Kiger - 1/3/2008 1:39:00 PM EST
The problem is that the coupons are supposedly only good for 90 days. So I started calling Best Buy, Circuit City and Radio Shack seeing who had the boxes. (I did not want my coupons to expire before I could get the box.) The store managers stated that not only did they NOT have any boxes, they also had not seen any information from their corporate offices about the program or the products. So I go back to the NTIA website to "Locate a Converter Box Retailer Near You", and it says "Retailer information will be posted, as it becomes available." I guess I better start saving up for a new digital TV....
Denise Madigan - 1/3/2008 12:13:00 PM EST
Now the only questions remaining are where to actually buy these converrters, and will they really be about $80 each? Only time will tell.
Mark Walker - 1/3/2008 10:24:00 AM EST
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