Digital TV Converter Box Coupons Resume Shipping

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.