WASHINGTON - The Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced today that nearly 6.4 million “over-the-air” TV households, those that rely on an antenna for broadcast TV, have requested about 12 million coupons from the TV Converter Box Coupon Program. The program helps households switch to digital television when full-power TV broadcasters switch from analog to 100 percent digital broadcasts in six months.
According to the Consumer Electronics Association, 60 percent of “over-the-air” TV households are potential purchasers of converter boxes. Nielsen estimated that there were 14 million over-the-air TV households, at the beginning of the year. Nearly 75 percent of these potential purchasers of converter boxes have requested coupons.
“I’m pleased to report that NTIA’s efforts are on track with helping the most vulnerable households - those that rely exclusively on over-the-air broadcasts,” said Acting NTIA Administrator Meredith Baker. “However, the conclusion to the digital television transition is only six months away, so I encourage all households that may need a converter box to apply for coupons now, and use them to buy a converter within 90 days.”
Household participation is 50 percent or higher in 187 of the country’s 210 television markets for their participation in the Coupon Program. (See listing of all markets and the participation rates of over-the-air households.) NTIA is sharing this data with its partners and creating special outreach where participation rates are lower than expected.
“Nationwide, with more than 23 million coupons requested and more than 8.2 million redeemed, millions of households are now experiencing the benefits of digital TV because of the Coupon Program,” said Baker. “We will continue to educate consumers about the Coupon Program and will focus our efforts on those markets and target populations that need the most support.”
The TV Converter Box Coupon Program allows all U.S. households to apply for up to two $40 coupons to help pay for the cost of a certified converter box. Consumers who have TVs with a digital tuner, or subscribe to cable, satellite or another pay service do not need a converter from this Program. Consumers who have an analog TV and want to continue using it after February 17, 2009, to receive programs over the air will need to take action to keep that TV set working.
Consumers may apply for the coupon online at www.DTV2009.gov, by phone at 1-888-DTV-2009 (1-888-388-2009), via fax at 1-877-DTV-4ME2 (1-877-388-4632) or by mail to P.O. Box 2000, Portland, OR 97208-2000. Deaf or hard of hearing callers may dial 1-877-530-2634 (English TTY) or 1-866-495-1161 (Spanish TTY). Consumers will receive a list of eligible converters and participating retailers with their coupons. Coupons expire 90 days after they are mailed, and only one coupon can be used to purchase each coupon-eligible converter box.
The Digital Television Transition and Public Safety Act of 2005 requires full-power television stations to cease analog broadcasts and switch to digital after February 17, 2009. The Act also authorizes Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to create the TV Converter Box Coupon Program, which is funded by the $19 billion airwaves auction and not tax dollars.
The transition offers consumers a clearer picture, more programming choices and will free up the airwaves for better communications among emergency first responders and new telecommunications services.
Viewers of over-the-air programs need to look at each analog television set in their home that is not connected to cable, satellite, or other pay television service and make a timely decision:
• They may connect it to cable, satellite, or pay television service;
• They may replace it with a TV with a digital tuner, or
• They may keep it working with a TV converter box.
Some viewers watch programs over translators or other low-power stations which may continue broadcasting analog signals after February 17, 2009. Those viewers may wish to select a converter box that will pass through analog signals.
NTIA is responsible for the development of the domestic and international telecommunications policy of the Executive Branch.
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