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Digital transition: Coupons for all Americans

March 12th, 2007

Digital TV transition assistance, in the form of government-provided $40 coupons, will be available to every American household beginning in 2008. The federal subsidy will reduce the cost to U.S. consumers who purchase a set-top converter box, which will allow conventional analog TVs to continue receiving over-the-air broadcasts following the transition to digital television. Analog broadcasts cease after Feb. 17, 2009.

Today’s announcement from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is much in keeping with its earlier proposals, with one significant exception: Households that subscribe to cable or satellite TV service will also be eligible for the coupon program in its $990 million initial phase. If demand for coupons exhausts first-phase funding, the NTIA will allocate an additional $510 million to the program, but subsidies for phase two will be limited to over-the-air households. The federal funding won’t cover every existing antenna-equipped analog TV set, according to some estimates, though many traditional TVs have already been replaced with high-definition models equipped with built-in digital tuners. But once the government money is spent, consumers will be on their own—so it might pay to apply early.

Cable or satellite subscribers will not generally need a box of this type, however, except for use with a “spare” television set that is not connected to the pay-TV service.

Coupon program essentials:

• Households must request coupons from NTIA between January 1, 2008 and March 31, 2009.

• Consumer coupon requests will be taken via a toll-free customer support center, a Web site, fax, and through the mail.

• Upon request, a maximum of up to two coupons will be sent to households via the United States Postal Service and will expire three months after they are mailed.

Details are available in this NTIA fact sheet [pdf]. And you can expect further updates on the converter box coupon program, of course, right here at Digital TV Facts.

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