Worst Case: Converter Boxes Could Run Out By End Of Month

New boxes should be on the shelves by April

Michael Petricone, senior VP, government affairs, for the Consumer Electronics Association, says some DTV-to-analog converter box manufacturers have started manufacturing new boxes--they had stopped anticipating a Feb. 17 DTV cut-off date--and that new boxes should be on the shelves by April.

In the meantime, he told FCC commissioners at an open meeting Thursday, there could be a shortage of converter boxes depending on demand and the timing of the NTIA's ramping up of distribution.

He said there were between 3 million and 6 million boxes currently in the pipeline. Assuming the worst case, he said, of only 3 million boxes in inventory, if daily coupon redemptions continue at about 115,000 per day, "retailers would run out of boxes by the end of February."

But he said that assuming the high end of 6 million in inventory, retailers would run out of boxes in approximately 52 days, which would mean they would run out just as new boxes begin to arrive on store shelves.

But Petricone said that an unknown that makes any projections difficult is that, given the NTIA coupon wait list of 3.7 million requests, if NTIA were to suddenly issue all the coupons and 65% or so were redeemed, boxes would run out even earlier.

Commissioner Robert McDowell said that the possble shortfall of coupons was one of the two bombshells in the three-hour DTV update that made of acting FCC Chairman Micheal Copps' first meeting. The other was the revelation by a representative of NTIA that it could be April before coupons start being processed expeditiously given that the money to do so is contained in the economic stimulus package that may not be passed until early March.

McDowell wryly observed that the government had accommodated that possible shortfall in converters, saying that while there may not be an boxes on the shelves, that's OK, because there won't be any coupons either.