Digital broadcasting converter coupons going fast
People relying on an antenna for television better tune in to news about digital converters before their television tunes them out next year.
In February 2009, the United States is switching to all digital broadcasting, a move that will affect somewhere between 15 and 25 million Americans getting free television reception.
That leaves three options for Americans with older analog TVs: buy a digital converter, start subscribing to a cable or satellite service, or purchase a new digital TV
To alleviate the public’s burden, the federal government is pitching in with a $1.5 billion coupon program providing every household with up to two $40 coupons toward the purchase of converters, on a first-come, first-serve basis. The coupons became available for request this month, but will not be distributed until Sunday, Feb. 17, according to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration because retailers are not expected to receive the converters until then.
Already the coupons are going fast.
“We believe the consumer education campaign is working and the program is successfully handling requests,” Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for NTIA Meredith Baker.
Nineteen converter box models have been approved for purchase with the coupon, and most major electronic retailers will be accepting it, including Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Circuit City, Radio Shack, Kmart, Sears and Sam’s.
Some people have voiced concern electronic stores will run out of digital converters, but RCA spokesman Dave Arland thinks they will be plentiful.
“We put in an initial order of tens of thousands of units, and more are being produced every day,” he said. “It was a bit of a surprise that two million (people) already signed up for the coupon, but 19 manufacturers are producing them, and we think they will be widely available.”
The RCA converter will cost about $60.
The switch from analog to digital could have the hardest hitting impact on senior citizens, many of whom have older TVs, said David Irwin, manager of communications for the AARP of Illinois.
“Older Americans watch more TV than any other group — almost 5.5 hours per day — so it’s going to be a big issue on multiple levels, like fixed income, limited mobility. We are educating our members through every mode possible,” Irwin said.
NTIA has received some criticism from Congress concerning its lack of a comprehensive plan for the transition. The Government Accountability office released a Congressional report in 2007 saying the “accountability for a successful transition cannot be assured.”
The switch from analog to digital will allow stations to offer improved picture and sound quality, allow companies selling broadband to provide more advanced wireless services, and will increase the overall efficiency of the broadcasting, according to the government’s official digital TV Web site, dtv.gov.
- To order a $40 government converter coupon call (888)-DTV-2009 or order online at www.dtv2009.gov
- For general information about the converter, visit www.ntiadtv.gov
- To watch videos about the digital TV conversion and step-by-step installation instructions for installing an RCA converter go to www.keepmytv.com
Converter Box Details
A DTV converter box is an easy-to-install electronic device that hooks up to your analog television set and over-the-air antenna and converts the digital television signal into analog, making it viewable on your analog TV. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) will issue up to two converter box coupons valued at $40 each to households to help defray the cost of the converter box.