Fed Flooded With DTV Coupon Requests

The government has received nearly 1.4 million requests for DTV converter coupons according to wire reports from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the agency in charge of the coupon program, opened it up for requests on Jan. 2, and had received 850,000 by the next day.

Each household is eligible to receive two coupons, meaning as many as 2.8 million coupons could be spoken for within the first week of the program.
The NTIA was allotted $1.5 billion from Congress to administrate the program, designed to keep legacy analog television sets working after the full transition to digital broadcasting Feb. 17, 2009.
Each coupon is worth $40 toward converter boxes certified by the NTIA.

So far, around 19 of the devices have been certified, with more getting the blessing all the time. Thomson announced this week at CES that its RCA DTA800, which has a smart antenna interface, had received certification. Smart antennas will be able to self-orient to TV signals for maximum reception.

The NTIA is also charged with certifying retailers to process the coupons, and that total has reached 250, including QVC, Wal-Mart, Circuit City, Kmart, Sears, Best Buy and RadioShack.
Congress divvied the $1.5 billion total into two buckets, the first of which is $990 million, with $5 million of that designated to public education, and $160 million for administration, leaving enough for around 22.5 million coupons. If the first round of funding does not cover all coupon requests, Congress will loose another $510 million for the program.
The coupons will start mailing in mid-February, when retailers are expected to have them in stock.