On February 17, 2009, the United States will shut off analog television broadcasts, leaving television users who receive their programming via traditional over-the-air antennas with nothing but snow on their screens until the end of time. To keep up with their favorite programming—not to mention news and important bulletins—TV watchers will need to tune into new-style digital television broadcasts. For folks with older televisions, that may mean buying a whole new television, but a less-expensive option is buying a DTV converter: essentially, a new tuner that you hook up to your existing TV that lets you tap into digital broadcasts.
However, digital television converters aren’t free. To facilitate the transition to digital television for folks who may not have the financial means to purchase converters, the U.S. government is operating a coupon program good fo $40 towards the purchase of an eligible digital TV converter. The government will offer up to two coupons per household while supplies last or through March 31, 2009, whichever comes first.
The U.S. government says it has now begun mailing out the first coupons good toward the purchase of a digital television converter. The coupons are good for 90 days, so recipients will need to get their converters soon rather than hold out and wait for potentially cooler models to come along.
How many people will need these coupons? In addition to tech-savvy, monied folks who are no doubt taking advantage of the program without having any financial hardship, viewership ratings firm Nielson Company says some 13 million U.S. households aren’t currently ready for the digital TV transition, although, somewhat ironically, it found that adults over the age of 55 are better prepared than younger households. The figures indicate that about 10 percent of all U.S. households would have no access to television if analog TV were to be shut off today, and that just under 17 percent of all households have at least one television that will stop working after the transition. Nielsen found that New York is the most-prepared regional market, with just 3.5 percent of its television sets “unready,” while Portland, Oregon, is the least prepared, with 22.4 percent of its televisions using only analog sets and over-the-air television.