Monday, March 9, 2009

Digital TV converter coupons available again

This is probably not important news to the ultra-techies who usually read this blog, but it might affect some low-tech people you know.

The government agency that distributes coupons for digital TV converter boxes expects to eliminate its waiting list by the end of March.

Helped by $650 million from the economic stimulus package, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration has started to mail out coupons to the 2.3 million households on the list.

The fund that pays for the $40 coupons reached its spending limit in early January. The NTIA was still able to mail out coupons, but only as old ones expired, 90 days after being issued.

The NTIA now expects to change its rules so that people who received coupons before but let them expire can now apply for new ones.

Coupons are now being mailed "first class." The government had been criticized for mailing the coupons "standard mail," which can take weeks.

The converter boxes allow older TVs to receive new digital broadcast signals. American full-power TV stations were scheduled to turn off their ancient analog signals on Feb. 17, but because of the coupon backlog, the deadline was extended to June 12. About a quarter of stations shut down in mid-February anyway, but most of them are in small markets. (info from The Associated Press)

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