DTV coupon wait-list tops 2.5 million

by John Eggerton, Broadcasting and Cable

The National Telecommunications & Information Administration's waiting list for DTV-to-analog converter box coupons continues to grow. As of midnight Wednesday, it had reached 2,527,839 coupons from 1,426,717 households, half of which (50.2%) identified themselves as over-the-air only.

Those 700,000, even if they came off the waiting list today, would not be able to get their coupons/boxes by the Feb. 17 transition date, NTIA has conceded.

NTIA says it has gotten 1,191,663 coupons off the waiting list since it was started Jan. 4 after the agency ran out of money to distribute the coupons.

There are currently two bills in Congress to move that DTV transition date to June 12 so the box issue can be cleared up. The Obama administration has asked Congress to move the date and has put $650 million in its proposed economic stimulus package to help with the DTV switch.

But a quick vote on the Senate version was foiled by at least one Republican senator last week, according to an aide to the bill's author, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.). And a mark-up on the House bill was postponed Wednesday, with the author of that bill, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), saying he wanted to wait and see what happens to the Senate bill.

Rockefeller's bill changes only the date, while Waxman's gets into other issues, including how to get rid of that NTIA waiting list and how to accommodate Verizon, Qualcomm and others waiting to get reclaimed analog TV spectrum being returned after the DTV switch.

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