Rebooted DTV converter box program to replace expired coupons

Truman Lewis, Consumer Affairs

It might sound like a rerun but the federal government says that this time it really, really has figured out how to help taxpayers make the transition to digital over-the-air television.

With the once-postponed June 12 deadline for the nationwide conversion to digital TV approaching, the program has now started to accept replacement requests from eligible households whose coupons expired without being redeemed. The reason for that, in many cases, was that they were mailed out after their expiration date but that little fact wasn't noted in the government's latest self-congratulatorily effusive announcement.

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Digital TV coupon program hampered from the start

Leslie Cauley, USA TODAY

"Do you really think this will work?" The question, posed by consumer advocate DeAnne Cuellar, was directed at Tony Wilhelm of the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration. It was February 2008, and Wilhelm, head of consumer education, had just explained the digital TV coupon program to a group of consumer advocates that included Cuellar.

The program, core to the government's plan to turn the USA into an all-digital TV market, offers $40 coupons — two per household — toward converter boxes that turn digital signals into analog. TVs that use antennas must have a converter; otherwise, they'll go dark once the switch happens. Cable and satellite TV customers aren't affected.

Cuellar, director of the Texas Media Empowerment Project in San Antonio, was concerned that the $1.34 billion program would run out of money before the nation's neediest — the poor, elderly and disabled — could apply. For many, she pointed out, free TV is their only connection to the outside world.

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NTIA gets access to DTV funds; coupons to flow next week

John Eggerton, Broadcasting & Cable

According to the federal Office of Management and Budget, the National Telecommunications & Information Administration now has access to funding to help unclog the DTV-to-analog converter box coupon program.

"We apportioned these funds earlier this week; coupons will start being received next week," confirmed an OMB official. The $40 coupons, up to two per household, allow analog over-the-air TV's to display a digital signal. Over a third of TV stations have now gone all digital after more than 400 pulled the plug on the original DTV hard date of Feb. 17.

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Free but fickle, digital TV reception eludes some Oregonians

Peter Svensson, Associated Press

Harry Vanderpool, a beekeeper, lives on a hill nearly 1,000 feet above the Willamette River, outside Salem, Ore. It should be a good spot for TV reception, and it used to be.

But now that analog signals are disappearing, leaving only digital ones, he may be losing all his channels.

"When you listen to the advertisements, it's 'Oh, all you have to do is get this little digital converter box and hook it up,'" Vanderpool said. "Well, we get nothing. Zero signal strength."

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DTV frustration mounts for those who thought converter box would be enough

Dave Roepke, INFORUM

Digital TV ... Frustration mounts for those who thought converter box was enough

The antenna installation business has never been better for Mike Tuck, and it’s breaking his heart.

With the switch to digital television, his workload has been bonkers lately. What would usually be good news is tearing him up because so many of the installations are for senior citizens who need new antennas to keep getting free, over-the-air TV signals.

“This is a big chunk of dollars out of their monthly budgets,” said Tuck, owner of Harold’s Specialty Systems in Moorhead. “I really honestly feel bad about giving these people a bill.”

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Digital TV for All? Not so Fast

Elizabeth Ann Peer, Inter Press Service

Imagine turning on your television and all you see is black and white fuzz.

This might be the scenario for the estimated 6 million U.S. citizens who have been left in the dark when it has come to the nation's required digital television transition.

While U.S. households will now have until Jun. 12 instead of Feb. 17 to prepare their television sets for the transition from analog to digital broadcast, there are still many roadblocks that stand in the way for those who rely on analog television.

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Government expects DTV coupon backlog to be gone within weeks

Kim Dixon, Reuters

Consumers should be able to receive new coupons within weeks to help defray the cost of converter boxes for the nationwide switch to digital television signals, the federal government said on Tuesday.

The mandatory switch to digital TV has been officially postponed by several months to June 12, after the government ran out of budget authority for the $40 coupons earlier this year.

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Stalled switch to digital TV a classic tale of breakdown

Kim Hart and Peter Whoriskey, Washington Post

The nation's switch to all-digital broadcasts has been more than a decade in the making. The federal government has spent nearly $2 billion to help people prepare. Broadcasters spent another $1.2 billion to run warning ads and millions more to upgrade equipment. Until last week, the United States seemed ready to follow the half-dozen European countries that have made the switch.

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Seattle ethnic media say confusion persists about digital TV

Kenneth Kim, New America Media

Editor's Note: Briefings for ethnic media on the transition to digital television and its impact on their communities were organized by New America Media as part of a campaign funded by the Leadership Council for Civil Rights. The following is a report by NAM writer Kenneth Kim on a briefing held in Seattle, Wash.

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TV stations denied permission for Feb. 17 DTV switch

National Public Radio

The FCC has told 123 television stations previously approved for the Feb. 17 switchover to digital that they now can't shut off their analog signals unless they agree to certain conditions.

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