This whole digital TV transition
has turned into an abject disaster
(to put it nicely), but for those of you still holding out for a
government voucher before buying a converter box, there's good news to
share. After the National Telecommunications and Information
Administration ran out of its $1.34 billion late last year and began
putting coupon requestors on a waiting list early in 2009, panic began
to set in. Procrastinators were (naturally) putting their requests in at
the last possible moment, which arguably led to the decision to
postpone the mandatory DTV switch from Febuary 17th to June 12th.
Of course, some stations have already killed their analog signals while
broadcasting solely in digital, but many stations agreed to hold back
in order to look after the interests of the 2.3 million currently
waiting for one or two $40 coupons. Today, the agency has confirmed
that an additional $650 million in program funding has allowed it to
resume shipments of vouchers, which provide American citizens with $40
off the purchase of a digital TV converter box. These boxes typically
cost $50 and up depending on features, and they enable older TVs with
analog (NTSC) tuners to successfully pull in digital (ATSC) broadcasts.
After June 12th -- barring any additional setbacks -- all over-the-air
stations in the USA will be forced to send out digital signals alone,
thus making the boxes necessary for older sets that lack an ATSC or
NTSC / ATSC hybrid tuner.
Reports suggest that the back log should be cleared within 2.5 or so
weeks, but it's tough to estimate how many individuals that have yet to
ask for a coupon will do so now that they've been reminded yet again of
something they should've done months ago. Curiously, the NTIA is also
allowing citizens who previously requested a voucher, but let it
expire, ask for another. Instead of just marking the expiration date as
null and void and saving the headache, paper and postage. Brilliant.
Also, the newly mailed coupons are being sent out in "first class"
envelopes compared to "Standard Mail" as with before, so they should
arrive a bit sooner. Of course, whether people actually go out and
apply them towards a purchase any sooner remains to be seen.