Digital TV coupons could run out

Consumers in the U.S. who wait too long before claiming coupons for digital TV converter boxes could find themselves empty-handed, according to Reuters.

A Department of Commerce official who is overseeing the subsidy program said that a last minute increase in coupon requests means that demand may exceed supply in the coming month. The analog switch-off, which is set to take place on February 17th, will bring improved picture and sound to viewers, while freeing up frequencies for other uses. Around 15 percent of the population rely on analog over-the-air signals and will require a digital converter box in order to continue watching over-the-air TV after February 17th.

The subsidy program, which gives out a $40 coupon towards a converter box, is likely to reach its budget limit of $1.34 billion in the first week of January, according to Meredith Attwell Baker, acting assistant secretary for Communications and Information at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

In a letter dated December 24th, from Baker to Rep. Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who asked for an update on the digital transition, said, "Once the obligation ceiling is reached, the program will hold coupon requests until funds from unredeemed coupons become available. NTIA realizes that this would likely result in consumer confusion."

Markey thought Baker's response was worrying, saying in a statement, "It is becoming increasingly clear that at minimum Congress may need to quickly pass additional funding for the converter box program in early January."

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

World of Warcraft tops 11.5 million subscribers

Next Story

The truth behind the cost of text messaging

16 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

So let me get this straight...

Our wonderful government KNOWS exactly how many tv's out there need to be converted and yet budgeted far less than the number of coupons required??

Would it not have made sense to cover every needed coupon FIRST then upon the exchange deadline, redirect the funds left over??

Or, did they just assume everyone was going to buy a new tv?

Rohdekill said,
So let me get this straight...

Our wonderful government KNOWS exactly how many tv's out there need to be converted and yet budgeted far less than the number of coupons required??

Would it not have made sense to cover every needed coupon FIRST then upon the exchange deadline, redirect the funds left over??

Or, did they just assume everyone was going to buy a new tv?

I don't know the numbers, but there are a ton of people who never get over-the-air TV.
The numbers could be way off, but I thought I saw something before that said over 85% of people get TV via cable/satellite/fiber/etc.

Of those who do watch over the air, they don't know how many are sticking with their current TV, switching to cable, getting a new TV, etc.


This doesn't affect those on cable or dish since it is already convert before it gets to them. It only affects those who are still using over the air antennas.

I work in the electronics department at Walmart and you wouldn't believe some of the misconceptions people have about this.

Things I've heard include:

1. you don't need an antenna anymore
2. you will get cable TV channels
3. you will get HD on your old TV
4. you still need a converter box with a new TV
5. you still need a converter box with cable or satellite service

and my favorite:

6. "I'm not going to get one because it's a government conspiracy to monitor what you watch"

I also hear complaints from FAR too many people who have let their coupons expire or somehow blame US for not having any boxes in stock when they come to get one (I guess they don't realize that Walmart is not the only place you can buy one).

roadwarrior said,
I work in the electronics department at Walmart and you wouldn't believe some of the misconceptions people have about this.

Things I've heard include:
4. you still need a converter box with a new TV

Age of the TV is irrelevant, there were TV still being made this year with analog tuners....completely ridiculous, but they are there.

schubb said,
Age of the TV is irrelevant, there were TV still being made this year with analog tuners....completely ridiculous, but they are there.


Wrong. As part of the digital transition, all devices capable of receiving broadcast TV made or sold in the US as of March 1, 2007 are required to include ATSC tuners. Yes, they still include analog tuners as well, but they don't need converter boxes to receive digital TV.

http://www.boston.com/business/technology/..._to_be_digital/

My favorite scenario when I worked at bestbuy was this:

Angry customer comes, complains that they have to buy the box, explain the program the gov is doing, pretty much explodes that he can't get the discount/copuon right at the store... instantly, and then starts ranting and raving about how many boxes they already have from their cable company. *facepalm*. I told him he didn't need one if he has cable. Didn't believe me... bought 4 of them... and didn't even bother getting an app for the coupon.

Well good for all those people who waited and can't get one if they dont issue more... you had how long to get them?! and the argument "I had no idea there was a switch!" is BS because around here the channels run crawlers on the anaglog stations saying when it is going to happen, how to get a box, and all the info you could ever need to know.... every single day for the past year now

I can't wait to see all the chaos when analog TV stops.

I hate that it's called a "switch". We are not "switching" to Digital TV. Digital TV has been here for years, and a LOT of people have been enjoying it for a long time over the air.
They are simply stopping the Analog broadcasts (something I haven't really used since 2006).

I think the commercials that say your TV "may stop working" are retarded. The TV will continue to work fine. The analog tuner just won't pick up anything over the air. If the signal isn't over the air or your TV is one of the millions that have a digital tuner, there is no change.

The situation is a lot more simple than what TV commercials have been making it, and yet I know there will be people complaining about Digital AFTER Analog is shut off. You know, instead of switching to Digital YEARS before the loss of Analog just to see how well it works for them.

I have one HDTV and four DTV boxes. I've been set for a long time. My 1978 Sears Black and White TV works better than ever! Perfect picture, and now I have a remote for it!

Xenomorph said,
I can't wait to see all the chaos when analog TV stops.

I hate that it's called a "switch". We are not "switching" to Digital TV. Digital TV has been here for years, and a LOT of people have been enjoying it for a long time over the air.
They are simply stopping the Analog broadcasts (something I haven't really used since 2006).

I think the commercials that say your TV "may stop working" are retarded. The TV will continue to work fine. The analog tuner just won't pick up anything over the air. If the signal isn't over the air or your TV is one of the millions that have a digital tuner, there is no change.

The situation is a lot more simple than what TV commercials have been making it, and yet I know there will be people complaining about Digital AFTER Analog is shut off. You know, instead of switching to Digital YEARS before the loss of Analog just to see how well it works for them.

I have one HDTV and four DTV boxes. I've been set for a long time. My 1978 Sears Black and White TV works better than ever! Perfect picture, and now I have a remote for it!


Yeah, I know people that bought the boxes and refuse to connect it up becase "Digital isnt out yet, it wont be until feb 17th 2009!" I keep saying um no its out NOW its been out for YEARS and they just REFUSE to listen..

Well, they have been telling everybody for years that analog is going away. GET YOUR FREE BOX NOW! :-)

If you have ignored it all this time, you should just pony up the extra $40 for yourself. I can't believe that the government spent 1.34 BILLION of our tax payer money for this program.

Are they planning on recouping that expense selling licenses for the newly available frequencies? Probably not, that would be too business-like.

I can't believe that the government spent 1.34 BILLION of our tax payer money for this program.

I was reading an article in the newspaper recently that was saying that the government made a profit on the whole thing. Mostly because of expired rebates and an increase in income tax revenue.

Our government(UK) arn't giving any coupons or discounts.. we have to buy our own boxes.
We also have different analog switch off dates for different areas of the country
.....great!