NTIA Issues Alert on Microprose DTV-Converter Box
National Telecommunications and Information Administration Seeks to Clarify Representations Made by Community Broadcasters Association, Vendor About MPI-500PT Model
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 5/22/2008 10:46:00 AM
Attention, online converter-box shoppers: The National Telecommunications and Information Administration put out an alert on representations made by the Community Broadcasters Association and Microprose for the latter's MPI-500PT model of digital-to-analog converter box.
That box has the analog pass-through capability that will allow viewers to still see the thousands of low-power analog stations that will likely still be broadcasting after the Feb. 17, 2009, switch to digital without having to unhook the box.
While that is a feature the NTIA is encouraging manufacturers to include, it has not yet certified the new box for its DTV-converter-box coupon-subsidy program. The NTIA is concerned about consumers being led to believe that they can use their $40 coupons toward the purchase of the boxes, which Microprose is selling online.
On its Web site, Microprose promotes the May 15 launch of its online-box sales by saying, "Of central interest to many is the ability to order the Microprose MPI-500PT model digital-to-analog converter boxes by many early adopters whose NTIA coupons are set to expire May 31 if not used."
While the urgency of that message certainly leaves the impression, as does a release issued this week, that the boxes are coupon-eligible, the description of the item on the new sales site says: "Certification discrepancy has put this unit as non-coupon-eligible. If your coupon is set to expire and you want to purchase an NTIA box, please select our non-analog MPI-500."
But it is the message discrepancy that troubled the NTIA.
In a consumer alert issued Thursday, the NTIA said: "The MPI-500PT model has not been certified by the program as coupon-eligible." The agency added that it is talking with the CBA and Microprose about the May 20 press release.
Greg Herman, VP, technology of CBA, says his group believed the box had already been certified, and was simply trying to do what NTIA and others had advised them to do, which was to inform viewers about how they could continue to receive low-power signals and help them get the right equipment.
"Some i's were not dotted and t's crossed at NTIA, " Said Herman, "so, instead of fast-tracking the box, they decided it was more important not to."
This mess with expirations and no explanation for denial of one reciever over another that is allowed is making me really hate my government.
To not make the coupons last long enough to have analog passthru available for a majority of the converters is indefensible. If I were king, those guys responsible would have their fingernails pulled out - very slowly!
Every time I look into this coupon thing and see what is going on, it makes me angry as hell. I know I am not alone in feeling this way. I will vote against every official I find that had put this into law. A previous poster said noone in the fcc, and also I would add to that the congress, should be making more than $35 to $40,000 per year and then we would get decisions that would be good for the little guy.
Kenneth Lynes - 6/22/2008 4:42:00 PM EDT
NTIA's mission is carried out by the Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information who administers five major program offices. Through the Secretary of Commerce, the Assistant Secretary is the President's principal adviser on telecommunications policy.
* Meredith Attwell Baker, Acting Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information
I think Ms. Baker needs to hear from citizens, so that she might avoid further mishandling of this issue.
Tony Riga - 5/25/2008 7:03:00 PM EDT
There is no reason for the coupons to ever expire. Suppose in December I go to move to a new place without cable. Many cities like Chicaog and NYC are so high density that you can't get a dish because there's no place to put it, and even if you did due to other building the signal isn't usable.
Landlords aren't required to provide cable. What if cable hikes its price and I want to get rid of it in December?
I should be able to get a box any time without having to buy a new TV.
Why didn't the FCC require dual tuners in 1998? They said cause no one would buy the TVs and no one is buying the TVs anyway, except a small select population who think they need it.
Look digital IS more efficent, I won't disagree but HDTV and such isn't needed. I see stores selling the high def concept on TV screens smaller than 30" which is meaningless as the human eye can't make the difference between standard and high def on a screen less than 30"
This was a complete and total mess from day one. Too much money was thrown around at the FCC and congress by companies trying to get their way and the FCC fell for it.
As I said digital is the future,and I have no issue with it except the FCC screwed this transition so bad we need to hold them accountable. Does anyone on the FCC not have cable or dish? I doubt it very much, we need to oust those high paid people and replace them with people that make $30-$40K a year, then the directors of the FCC would make a right decsion in the first place if it effected tehm
Eric Post - 5/23/2008 2:59:00 PM EDT
NTIA should extend the artificially short coupon expiration. The first coupons are now set to expire and yet it is hard to find all but a very few of the so-called CECBs. Those that are available lack analog pass-through and, more importantly, Smart Antenna interfaces. Basically, what is out there now are the dregs that the early adopters passed over. Yet, the newer boxes, such as the new one from Dish, will not be available until June. Why are pre-orders prohibited? The NTIA has made a bureaucartic botch of what should have been a helpful program. Instead, IBM and NTIA have created a program that meets THEIR needs and not those of the average consumer.
Congress should mandate extending the coupon expiration to at least 6 months. What's the rush?
Earl Arbuckle - 5/22/2008 8:43:00 PM EDT
To be fair the NTIA should also remove the Zenith DTT900 - they have fixed the left channel audio problem in the APRIL 2008 Builds -
They like MicroProse have made modifications since their initial NTIA approval and should have to re-certify.
Both modifications are for the better so why is Zenith's modification different?
Zenith should not be allowed to sell with a coupon any modified builds until they too gain recertification like MicroProse.
I guess the NTIA thinks it is doing the public a favor by removing a much needed Analog PassThru CECB
The NTIA sure are ok approving all the boxes that violate the "All Channel Receiver Act" enacted by Congress in 1962 though.
What rule did MicroProse violate by the way?
Malouff - 5/22/2008 6:59:00 PM EDT
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