During his Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday, the Washington state governor said he has no plans to seek more funding or an extension to the digital TV transition, initially set for Feb. 17 but delayed till June after politicians felt America wasn’t ready.
Consumers who rely on antennas and analog TVs will have no TV service when networks begin broadcasting in digital only. But consumers don’t need to buy a new digital TV or subscribe to cable or satellite TV. They can buy a digital converter box, which costs between $40 to $100. (For tips, see the ”Gadgetress Guide to the 2009 Digital TV Transition.”)
One reason the DTV transition was delayed was the government-funded program offering $40 coupons on converter boxes ran out of money in January. About 33 million coupons had been redeemed and new requests were put on a waiting list. Thanks to the president’s economic stimulus plan, the coupon program got another $650 million.
That money was received earlier this month and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which runs the program, begin mailing out coupons to the 4.1 million on the waiting list.
Of the $650 million in new funding, approximately $160 million was set aside for administration and operational expenses. Those include contracting the service to IBM to process the coupon requests and mail them out. The $490 million dedicated to coupons can fulfill 12.25 million requests.
“It takes us a few days to sort through the (waiting) list and make sure they are valid requests,” said Bart Forbes, the NTIA’s public affairs specialist. “We’ve been mailing out 400,000 coupons per workday.”
The law that delayed the digital transition in June also allows for people who let their $40 coupon expire to apply for one more. Details on when and how the reapplication process will work will be released as soon as next week, which Locke also mentioned during his confirmation hearing, Forbes said.
“We’ve been changing our process” to accommodate requests from expired coupon holders, Forbes said. “We had to rework the whole system.”
For those who still need a coupon, here is how to get one:
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More on the digital TV transition: Check out the Gadgetress Guide to the Digital TV transition. Latest headlines: