NTIA Whittles Coupon 'Queue' to 3.4 Million

Requests being processed at about 400,000 per weekday

The National Telecommunications & Information Administration no longer has a DTV-to-analog converter box coupon program waiting list, but that is partly only a semantic change.

According to an administration spokesman, NTIA no longer has a waiting list, with all those coupon requests moved to a "processing queue." That "queue" for applications for the $40 coupons is down to 3.4 million from the 4.2 million on it when it was still a waiting list last week--before OMB freed up the $650 million from the economic stimulus package to fund more coupons.

NTIA is getting those requests out of the queue at the rate of about 400,000 per weekday--applications are not being processed over the weekends. It says it will have the backlog cleared up in 2-3 weeks.

Although the law changing the DTV hard date and extending the coupon program changes the program to allow anyone with expired coupons to reapply, NTIA is not ready to process any of those requests yet. Any reapplications it receives before it is ready will not be put on a waiting list, or even in a queue, but will be rejected, said NTIA spokesman Bart Forbes.

He warned that even if the rule is published and the date change law is published in the Federal Register this week that does not mean NTIA is ready to start processing reapplication requests. One is a rulemaking, he said, the other is changing the systems to accept reapplications.

That is still a week or so away and NTIA says it will let everybody know when it is open for reapplication businesses.

Changing the DTV hard date from Feb. 17 to June 12 was driven in large part by the waiting list for coupons, which started building up in early January after NTIA ran into a funding ceiling due to an accounting problem.