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 5/22/2008 10:30:00 AM Eastern

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.

Microprose MPI-500PT

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."


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