Monday, January 14, 2008

Better wait to send for those DTV Converter coupons

Now that the new year is well underway we find ourselves just about thirteen months from the end of analog TV broadcasting. I have written several times about this transition and will certainly continue to do so in future columns all year. You may have seen some spots on TV discussing the various options you have in order to make sure that you continue to receive your favorite TV programs after February 17, 2009. Look for cable companies and satellite services to run advertisements that lead you to believe that you will need to subscribe to one of their services to continue to use you old TV. You don’t need to use them. In fact, you don’t even need a new TV set. You can purchase a converter that will receive the new digital channels and convert them to channels that your old TV can display.

In my column last week I briefly mentioned the beginning of the Federal program that will provide up to two $40 coupons for use in purchasing DTV converters. Over the past few weeks there have been several articles in the newspaper and some news reports on TV and radio urging people to request the coupons as soon as possible. While the program officially began January 1, 2008, and more than 800,000 households have already requested coupons, I would suggest that you wait to send for your coupon.

There is a one detail about the coupon program that has not received much discussion in most of the reports in the news. The coupons have an expiration date. They expire 90 days from date of issue. If you request the coupons now, they will expire in April. I have been watching the stores and have yet to see any converters for sale. Since there have been only a few manufacturers that have been approved to make the devices and those approvals have been issued by the FCC in the last few months, it may well be spring or even summer before the devices can be purchased in local stores. I don’t know about you, but I am not too excited about re-applying to the Federal Government for two additional coupons when the ones I first received expire.

Waiting till summer or even fall should not be a problem. Congress has indicated that if the first appropriation to fund the coupon program is not sufficient to handle the demand, they will increase the funding. No congressperson wants his constituents calling and complaining that they can no longer watch TV.

I will continue to monitor the various local electronic stores and report when the converters are available. A spokesperson for Best Buy® was quoted in a recent Associated Press article that his stores would be getting the converters soon after the first of the coupons were mailed to consumers. Once that happens I will see what models are available. Since there will be several “flavors” of these converters, each with special features and options. I’ll try to cut through the “technobabble.” In the meantime you can get more information by going to my blog or by calling 888 DTV-2009 (888-388-2009) or go to the DTV information website

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Blogger Jack Dominic said...

I got the following email from a reader in West Harrison:

I read your article printed in the January 16, 2008, Harrison Press regarding DTV converter coupons. Apparently the information I obtained when I called DTV-2009 was different from the information you obtained. I was told the coupons would not be mailed until the converters were available in the stores, and the expiration date would be 90 days from when they were mailed.

I was also told only 2 coupons would be mailed to each household, so if you let your coupons expire before using, you cannot have any additional ones mailed to the same address. Therefore, reapplying for coupons will not be an option, unless you have them mailed to someone else’s address.

I look forward to your advice on which converter to buy and where to find the best deals.


Nancy asks some good questions. I also have read several versions of how the program is rolling out. I have read several different interpretations from NTIA, the government office in charge of the program. The most recent NTIA release stated that coupons would begin to be sent out Feb 17, 2007. How they will know if the tuners are in our local stores is beyond me. A recent discussion with one of the sales people at Best Buy™ gave me even more pause, as he not only did not know when converters would be available at Best Buy™, but I had to explain to him what a converter was, what it was used for, and that there would be coupons. Not a good sign.

The government has some 22 million coupons to send out in the first round. Another 11 million will be available after the first round is used up. In the second round though, you will only be eligible for coupons if you DO NOT have cable or satellite.

All this being said, I still think that since we have more than a year before we need converters, waiting to send for the coupons until the devices are available in local outlets is the better way to go. Also, I am not sure that I want a first generation model anyway.

3:14 PM  

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