The agency that handles the coupon program for the digital TV converter boxes has upped the number of potential coupons to 50.5 million, which is 50 percent more than the 33.5 million the National Telecommuniciations and Information Administration had available over the summer.
Meredith Baker, NTIA secretary, said earlier this week that the agency asked the Department of Commerce and received $7 million more to fund the program. The agency can also go back and request more, if neccessary.
“At this point, we’ve ordered 44.5 million coupons. Our estimates are based on what we see in ordering and redemption rates,” she said, adding that they can order up to 50.5 million. “…We have asked for flexibility.”
The coupons offer a $40 discount on digital converter boxes, which are necessary for older analog TVs that rely on antennas to get TV signals. After Feb. 17, 2009, major TV stations will switch to digital broadcasts and end their analog broadcasts. With a converter box, which sells for $40 and up, older TVs will still work (consumers who subscribe to paid TV service like cable TV don’t need to worry about this).
As of Oct. 1, 11.2 million coupons have been redeemed, while 8.9 million have expired. The coupons expire 90 days after they are mailed, under the law. Once coupons expire, recipients cannot apply for a new one. No legislation is pending to change that.
Baker said that it’s now taking between two to four weeks for coupons to arrive. Since consumers must then go buy a converter box and install it, the agency is estimating that the whole process takes six weeks and urges consumers to apply for their coupons before the end of the year to make the Feb. 17 deadline. Read the NTIA’s “Apply, Try, Buy” tip sheet.
* There is now a battery-powered digital converter box. The Wineguard RC-DT09A Digital to Analog Converter Box (pictured at right) is $62.99 and eligible for the coupon discount. More information HERE.
* Consumers can call the Federal Communications Commission for more information or help, at 1-888-CALL-FCC (888-225-5322)
* If you lost, misplaced or let your coupon expire, you cannot apply for another one. The government encourages those folks to ask a friend or family member who won’t need their coupon. Also suggested: Ask your local church or community group to see if a program has been set up to handle this.
- Digital TV coupons now available to nursing homes, P.O. boxes (Gadgetress)
- 23 reviews of digital converter boxes (Gadgetress)
- Help parents survive the digital TV transition (Gadgetress)
- Guide to the 2009 Digital TV transition (Gadgetress)
- Consumer DTV information
- Coupon program
- DTV Coalition
- FCC on DTV