Digital TV Converter Coupons Running Low

At this point, it’s fair to assume most U.S. television viewers have heard that analog television broadcasts are due to shut off on February 17, 2009, and that if folks want to continue receiving over-the-air broadcasts they need to either get a newer TV with a digital tuner, or buy a converter box they can hook up to their old TVs to receive digital signals. The good news is that the U.S. government set aside some funds to subsidize the purchase of those converter boxes: for the asking, U.S. citizens can get a $40 voucher toward the purchase of a digital TV converter. The bad news? The government is running out of vouchers, meaning that not everyone who needs financial assistance converting over to DTV may not be able to get it.

The U.S. Congress approved some $1.34 billion to fund the $40 coupon vouchers, but the National Telecommunications and Information Administration has been receiving about 1.5 million voucher requests per week and expects to reach the limit of those funds by early January. After that point, requests for vouchers will be queued until funds become available from coupons that have already been issued, but which expire due to non-use. The coupons expire after 90 days; households may request up to two vouchers.

Massachusetts congressman Ed Markey (D) has indicated Congress may be forced to allocate additional funds for the voucher program in early January in order to keep the vouchers flowing.

Roughly 15 percent of the U.S. television-watching population relies on over-the-air broadcasts; most cable and satellite television subscribers are not impacted by the DTV transition.