The U.S. Department of Commerce National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has begun accepting consumer applications for up to two free $40.00 coupon vouchers per household to be issued to U.S. consumers to help offset the cost of a basic converter box for converting U.S. television signals from analog spectrum to digital spectrum for analog television sets. Analog television sets will require the converter box to continue to receive free over-the-air signals after the analog spectrum channels cease working in February, 2009.
The Web site to link to for the free coupons is http://www.DTV2009.gov, and the toll free telephone number for information is 888-388-2009 (888-DTV-2009). Availability of the coupons is not tied to household or individual income or the number of digital televisions already owned; all U.S. households are eligible for up to two of the $40.00 coupons, provided that they certify that they rely solely on over-the-air television broadcast signals. Congress passed legislation providing for the digital signal conversion, freeing up the current analog spectrum for other uses, including public access. The converter boxes are reported to cost U.S. consumers $50 to $70 per analog television set. The NTIA has posted a current approved list of 14 brands of Coupon Eligible Converter Boxes (CECB) on its site at http://www.DTV2009.gov.
In phase one of the conversion up to 22.5 million coupons are expected to be available. The NTIA claims that as of January 2nd it had received applications totaling 277,457 (for 528,354 coupons) worth more than $21 million. The coupons are anticipated to be mailed to applicants in mid-February, by which time more than 14,000 U.S. retail stores are anticipated to have the CECB in stock. The NTIA has said that the coupons will have an expiration date of 90 days from the date they are issued.
Consumers who already own a television set with a digital tuner or other device that connects to the television with a digital tuner aren’t expected to have to make any changes, and many television sets that were purchased since 1997 should already have a built-in digital tuner. Consumers who get their television signals from standard digital cable, satellite and IPTV services will also not require any other steps to be taken or changes to be made.
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