$500 million in DTV coupons unused

The last of the government-issued coupons for the purchase of a digital television converter box expired last week, with Americans redeeming just over half of the 64.1 million coupons that were distributed.

Last week, the final 200,000 coupons mailed by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration in mid-August reached the 90-day expiration date.

With about $1.8 billion in funding to help viewers prepare for the transition by offering $40 toward the purchase of a converter box, more than $500 million remained unused, according to rough estimates. Some states had poor redemption rates. Hawaii ranked lowest at 40 percent, while Iowans were tops with a 64 percent redemption rate.

Unused funds will return to the federal government’s general fund. Those still in need of converter boxes are now on their own. Most boxes have been sold and are now hard to find in retail stores.