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January 13, 2008

Sign up now for Digital TV Converter Box coupons

You may not know it, but the US federal government has decreed that “On February 17, 2009, federal law requires that all full-power television broadcast stations stop broadcasting in analog format and broadcast only in digital format.” (Actually, TV stations can be foolish enough to switch over earlier if they so desire which leads to a variety of less than amusing scenarios.)

Anyhow, if you are using an an analog TV to receive TV broadcasts over the airwaves (i.e. not via satellite or cable) you aren’t going to have any TV reception unless you get a digital TV converter box which hooks between your TV and your antenna and is expected to cost from $40 to $70.

Currently there are no converter boxes in the stores, but they are expected to appear in February or March. Moreover, starting January 1, 2008 the government is subsidizing purchases of digital converter boxes on the approved list with a limited supply of coupons worth $40 to help defray the cost. (Yes there apparently will be some converter boxes that retail for as low as $40.)

To get your coupons (up to 2 per family), head over to and sign up to have them mailed to you. You can also apply via phone at the Coupon Program 24-hour hotline 1-888-DTV-2009 (1-888-388-2009), TTY 1-877-530-2634. Note that the coupons are nontransferable, cannot be sold, are available only from the government, and expire 90 days after they are mailed starting in late February or early March.

So how has the coupon program which started January 1, been working? Here’s a BetaNews report from January 9:

More than 1 million have applied for almost 1.9 million coupons, worth $40 each, during the first week they were available.

But that still leaves 14 million households that haven’t yet. And people won’t have a lot of time after February 17, 2009, to deal with the problem: The coupons won’t be available after March 1, [2009] and may run out before then.

This sounds like a farce just waiting to happen particularly if there are distribution problems getting the converter boxes out to the stores for consumers with expiring coupons.

Posted at 11:41 am. Filed under Digital TV Converter

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