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Ready for the DTV Transition? Better Order Your Converter Box Coupons Soon. Really Soon.

Kim Hart

Are you ready for the big switch? If not, you'd better pick up the pace.

In about six weeks, analog broadcasts will cease to exist, and TV stations will only transmit digital signals. That means older analog TVs without digital tuners will need a converter box in order to keep working.

The converter boxes cost between $50 and $80 at retail stores like Best Buy, Wal-Mart and RadioShack. You can get a $40 coupon from the government to help pay for them.

But if you want a coupon in time to by a converter box before the transition happens on Feb. 17, you should hurry. The government is urging consumers to order the coupons before they ring in the New Year to make sure they arrive in the mail in time to buy a converter and hook them up to TVs. Check out my story about this in today's paper for more details.

So if you, or family members or neighbors, need a coupon to help buy the converter boxes, be sure to place your order today or tomorrow. Sure, you can order the coupons up to March 31, as long as supplies last. But if you wait too much longer, you may be stuck with a dark TV screen while you wait for it to come in the mail.

Also, demand for the coupons is skyrocketing. So if you don't order soon, you may be placed on a waiting list if there is a backlog. And, once again, that means you may end up with a blank TV for a while.

You can buy the converter boxes without the coupons, but you won't be eligible for that $40 discount.

If you ordered a coupon but decided not to use it, federal officials are asking you to give it to neighbors or friends who need one. Remember, they expire after 90 days. Each household is eligible for two coupons. You'll need one for every analog TV in your house that receives over-the-air broadcasts.

The recession could be contributing to the increased coupon demand. A lot of analysts expected people to simply upgrade to digital TVs to get ready for the digital transition, or subscribe to cable or satellite service to avoid the hassle. But as people try to save money, some are ditching their pay-TV services and opting not to spend hundreds of dollars on a new TV set.

To order a coupon, visit www.dtv2009.gov or call 1-888-DTV-2009.

By Kim Hart  |  December 30, 2008; 10:05 AM ET  | Category:  Kim Hart
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