THE SWITCH TO DIGITAL TELEVISION

DTV Converter Box Coupons

The government’s DTV coupon program can save you up to $80. Here’s how to get coupons.

This is archived content from Digital TV Facts. For up-to-date information on the digital TV transition, see the federal government’s site, www.DTV2009.gov.

By Steven Sande, Digital TV Facts

The DTV converter box coupon program can help you save your old analog TV set without breaking the bank. Two coupons, each worth $40, can be requested by any U.S. household during the initial phase of the program.

If you watch over-the-air broadcasts on a conventional TV, using an antenna, a DTV converter box will be needed after February 17, 2009.

How can I get my coupons?

Requests for digital-to-analog converter box coupons will be accepted by mail, through a toll-free phone number, or through a government web site, beginning January 1, 2008.

When can I request a coupon?

Not yet, unfortunately. Requests will be taken from January 1, 2008, through March 31, 2009.

You may want to request DTV converter box coupons as early as you can, because the program might not have sufficient funds to meet the demand.

Cable, satellite or other pay-TV subscribers, especially, should not delay, because their eligibility will lapse if the initial funding becomes depleted. (If you subscribe to a pay-TV service, you probably will not need a DTV converter box unless you also own an analog TV that is not connected to the service.)

Can I pre-order a coupon?

No. The program will not accept coupon requests before January 1, 2008, according to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the federal agency that administers the voucher program.

Who can request a coupon?

Initially, all households in the U.S. and its territories are eligible.

If the DTV converter box coupon program exhausts its $890 million coupon budget, a second phase (providing an additional $510 million) will begin. During the second phase, households that receive cable, satellite or other pay television service will no longer be eligible to receive coupons. The remaining coupons would be available to over-the-air viewers only.

The limit is two coupons per household, each good for $40 off the price of a digital TV converter box.

The coupon program is for households only. Businesses, offices, schools, non-profits organizations or other entities are not eligible to participate.

What counts as a household? Under the government’s definition, a “household” consists of all persons who currently occupy a house, apartment, mobile home, group of rooms, or single room that is occupied as a separate U.S. postal address. (Even if multiple families share the same household, the limit remains two coupons worth $80 in total. For example, if your family shares a house or apartment with your parents, the whole lot of you will still be limited to two coupons to divide among yourselves.) If you live in an apartment or other multiunit dwelling, each unit with a separate postal address can request two coupons. A post office box does not count as a household, although a P.O. box is acceptable as a mailing address in rural areas without home postal delivery.

Is the coupon program restricted based on income?

No. The DTV converter subsidy program does not include a “means test,” so any otherwise eligible person may request a coupon regardless of income.

Where can I use my coupon?

You can redeem your DTV converter box coupon at any store (including an online retailer) certified by the federal government to participate in the program.

May I combine the coupons?

No. By law, only one coupon may be used per DTV converter you purchase. You may not combine two coupons toward the purchase of a single converter box.

If the DTV converter box costs less than $40, can I pocket the difference?

No. The coupon’s maximum value is $40 or the price of the DTV converter box, whichever is less. (Unlike a gift card, the converter coupon will not retain any stored value if your purchase costs less than the coupon’s maximum value.)

So if you happen to find a DTV converter for less than $40, you cannot receive the remainder in cash. You can’t get a store credit, either.

When I request my coupon, what information will I need to supply?

When you apply, you are required to provide your name, address and the number of coupons you need (maximum: 2).

Some applicants may need to provide additional information:

• As noted, if the DTV coupon program exhausts its initial funding, a second phase begins. Because cable, satellite and other pay-TV customers are excluded from phase two, applicants will then be required to certify they do not receive those services.

• An applicant residing in a rural area that lacks home postal delivery (including some American Indian reservations and Alaska Native villages) may be asked to provide information about the physical location of the applicant’s household.

How will the coupons be distributed?

DTV converter box coupons will be mailed, along with terms of use, via the U.S. Postal Service.

What will the coupon look like?

The appearance of the actual coupon has yet to be determined. It will be made of either plastic (with an appearance similar to a gift card, possibly) or paper. In either case, the coupon will be capable of storing electronically encoded data used to track transactions.

Do the coupons have an expiration date?

Yes. DTV converter box coupons expire 90 days after being placed in the mail by the contractor that operates the program .

May I use my coupon to buy any converter box?

No. Only certain DTV converter boxes are eligible. The permitted models are basic, stand-alone devices, certified by the federal government based on technical specifications and features.

If you are uncertain whether a particular converter box (or “digital TV adapter”) is eligible, ask a retailer that carries it. Stores and online merchants are not allowed to accept coupons for ineligible converter boxes or other devices.

Can a coupon be used to purchase a DVR or DVD player that includes a digital tuner?

No. The coupons may only be applied toward the purchase of a basic, stand-alone, government-certified DTV converter box.

Some manufacturers offer high-end converter boxes that include a DVD player or recorder, or a digital video recorder (DVR). These feature-rich boxes are ineligible for the coupon program.

• Read more: DTV Converter Box Alternatives

Can converter-box coupons be applied toward the purchase of a digital TV or HDTV?

No. Television sets are not eligible for the coupon program.

If I need to return my DTV converter box, can I get a refund?

The coupon program’s rules permit you to exchange your DTV converter for another box—either the same model or another that is approved by the program. You may not exchange it for other merchandise.

If you want a refund, the program allows the retailer to refund to you only the portion of the purchase price not covered by the coupon.

Your ability to return or exchange the box may be further limited by the retail outlet’s return policies.

What if I’ve already bought a DTV converter box—can I use a coupon to get $40 back from my previous purchase?

No. Coupons must be presented at the time of purchase.

What is the toll-free number for DTV converter box coupon information?

The number is 1-888-DTV-2009. The DTV phone line, provided by NTIA, currently offers a brief recorded message about the converter box coupon program. The phone line is not yet staffed, and it does not accept messages.

Can I sell my DTV converter box coupon on eBay?

No—neither there nor anywhere else. The coupon has no cash value, and selling it is illegal.

Where can I find more information about DTV converter boxes?

Check out our section on Converter Boxes.

Updated June 14, 2007, 8:31 p.m. ET

THE LATEST from Digital TV Facts