Update on Digital TV Conversion

By on January 11, 2009

By CK Wilde for 3GenFamily Blog

What happened here?

On December 27, 2008, we mentioned JimG’s report about the digital TV conversion and how many seniors, who rely on TV with rabbit ears, were not ready for the transition. Now, we hear that the Obama transition team is recommending that Congress delay the conversion because many TV viewers still aren’t ready and the money has run out for the converter box coupons.

Where Did The Coupons Go?

Since January 1, 2008, more than 25 million households have requested 47.4 million DTV converter coupons and more than 18.8 million have been redeemed. Many of the issued but not used coupons are reaching their 90 day expiration.

The Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA)  sent out a press release on January 5, 2009 saying they were putting people requesting coupons on a waiting list starting January 4, 2009.  NTIA issued another press release on January 8th  to say they are working with Congress to free up the money from expired but not used coupons so that they can issue new ones to people on the waiting list.

Why Have So Many Coupons Not Been Cashed?

First, no converter boxes — NTIA started issuing coupons in January 2008 but converter boxes didn’t start showing up in the stores until Spring. In April 2008, Consumers Union was urging Congress to extend the expiration dates on the coupons so that consumers would be able to purchase the lower cost converter boxes just being shipped to stores.

Second, fraud – It was discovered that certain major retailers were not clearly identifying which TV sets would need converter boxes and which would not. People got fooled by “specials” or got sold expensive equipment they didn’t need. On April 10, the FCC published enforcement orders against numerous big-box retailers such as Best Buy, Circuit City, Sears, and Wal-Mart, for selling televisions that were not clearly labeled as requiring a set-top converter box to receive digital signals, with orders to forfeit profits of up to $6 million.

Third, the FCC wasn’t focused on the DTV transition. Members of Congress expressed their concerns and finally, in August 2008, the FCC began making an effort to publicize the change.

What You Need To Do

Nothing to do if you or your elderly relative:

  • have a Cable TV or Satellite TV subscription,
  • have a  TV built after 2005 with a digital tuner,
  • or don’t have a TV.

If you like to watch TV and don’t have any of the items above, you will need a converter box.

You can apply for the waiting list for discount  coupons or just buy a box at a store or online. There no way to know right now if the conversion will be delayed or not.

JimG’s report about his digital TV conversion has all the details about how he got his converter box to work.

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© 2009 CK Wilde. All Rights Reserved. Please feel free to link to this post but you must have prior written permission (please use the comments) to reproduce this post either whole or in part.

About CK Wilde

CK Wilde has been writing about topics close to her heart--family caregiving and multigenerational families--since 2007. She grew up in a multigenerational household and understands the positive and negative aspects of close family living. CK believes that caring for her father during the last two years of his life and raising two terrific young men have been her most important accomplishments.