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DTV Coupon Program Out of Money

Kim Hart

If you haven't ordered a coupon for a converter box to prepare for next month's switch to digital television, you may have trouble getting one before the Feb. 17 deadline.

Today the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which is running the coupon program, said it is nearing the program's $1.34 billion funding limit. That means people trying to order coupons will be placed on a waiting list until more funds become available. Here's a story with more details.

Each $40 coupon expires after 90 days. Unredeemed coupons are redistributed to other households that need them. But by the time those coupons become available, millions of analog TVs may already be dark. Coupon orders have been at record highs over the past week.

If you have an analog TV that is not hooked up to cable or satellite service, you will need a converter box in order to keep watching TV.

At this point, Congress will have to step in to give the NTIA more money. It's also possible that the NTIA will seek dollars from the stimulus plan to keep it going.

By Kim Hart  |  January 5, 2009; 3:27 PM ET  | Category:  Kim Hart
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In many ways this program is a disaster - it would be nice to see a Washington Post story about the tens of thousands of individuals like myself who are essentially being DENIED COUPONS because the FCC refuses refuses to let us get back in line after our initial coupons either never arrived, or expired due to lack of available converter boxes early in the program.

The FCC has never offered any reasonable justification for this abusive policy which runs contrary to the very intent of the program. Every coupon is numbered and they can tell whether coupons sent to a home expired without being used. There is no reasonable justification for denying people a second chance now that reasonable converter boxes are now available. This is government arrogance by a handful of petty bureaucrats at it's worse.

Posted by: mb56 | January 5, 2009 6:15 PM

Dollars from the stimulus plan to buy Chinese made converter boxes? Whose stimulus plan?

Posted by: jimk8mr | January 5, 2009 6:45 PM

So what... let them get cable or a dish. George W. Bush

Posted by: whocares666 | January 5, 2009 6:51 PM

Oh, please, the converter boxes cost $59.99. Nobody is going to go broke by paying full price for one. If you can't afford to pay for a converter box, don't watch TV. (In fact, sell your TV, because you really need the cash.) Congress has about 1 million better uses for taxpayer money than spending it on more converter box coupons.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | January 5, 2009 11:46 PM

Congress has about 1 million better uses for taxpayer money than spending it on more converter box coupons.

This program was not funded with taxpayer money, but rather a portion of the ~ $20 billion expected from auctioning the freed up frequencies. This program was never about better TV for the masses. It was about reaping a windfall and getting more military frequency space.

Since it is the government's actions that are making many perfectly good TV's worthless THEY should compensate those affected plain and simple. Since the estimated cost to do this is < 10% of the windfall they are reaping, it is more than reasonable.

And no, not all of want to landfill perfectly good TV's.... what a irresponsible waste. Only in our wasteful consumption oriented society could this be considered the appropriate solution.

Posted by: mb56 | January 6, 2009 1:54 AM

Oh, please, the converter boxes cost $59.99. Nobody is going to go broke by paying full price for one. If you can't afford to pay for a converter box, don't watch TV.

Get a clue. Not everybody lives close to the transmitters. I live over 80 miles from the transmitters in the nearest city. I may not be able to get a reasonable digital signal since the transmission power is going to be reduced. Why should I spend my $$ to find this out. The government is causing these problems with this ill-conceived fiasco, THEY should foot the bill.

Posted by: mb56 | January 6, 2009 2:05 AM

No problem -- Just find the money to pay the $billions that repay firms who have designed and are building equipment and services to use the vacated spectrum. They made the mistake of believing the government could plan and execute anything correctly.

You know the bulk of the coupons are in the hands of folks who probably also have a mortage they can't afford because of the magic word "free". And his is a technical program -- the government can't get writing laws write and they are all lawyers -- how do you expect them to properly run what is a business enterprise?

Apple planned a roll out of the iPhone that took them from not playing in the cell phone game to number two in the world in months. They can't make their schedule on something as simple as "ask for a coupon" and we are going to trust them to bypass those trained in the arts of building roads and managing healthcare computers and actually get something done!

My only measurement on this whole stimulus thing would be the percent of the money that actually gets into the pockets of those swinging the shovels. My bet 10% -- 90% stolen or given to "community organizers". While those who can actually manage the work either apply for welfare or die waiting for a national healthcare doctor appointment.

Posted by: tommariner | January 9, 2009 1:00 PM

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