WASHINGTON: More than 32 million U.S. households have met the federal government’s criteria for its DTV converter-box coupon program. More than 59 million coupons had been requested by June 3, and more than 58 million had been mailed. Eligible households can request up to two of the $40 coupons good against certified converter boxes. As directed by Congress, the coupons expire within 90 days of issue; nearly 22 million have done so, while more than 30 million have been redeemed. Another 6.1 million remain active.
The request rate over the course of the program stands at 114,104 per day. Over the last month, it was 76,297 per day; the week prior to June, 3, it was 92,530 per day. The fed’s total expenditure so far on the DTV converter coupon program is $1.186 billion. Committed funding totals $1.484 billion. Another $345.8 million remains available for the program. Around 2,100 retailers are carrying converter boxes at more than 31,000 locations, quite a few of them being Radio Shacks.
One week now remains before 974 full-power TV stations stop broadcasting in analog and go all-digital. A soft test performed by many of those stations on May 21, generated 55,000 phone calls to the FCC’s DTV hotline. More than half the calls were about the fed’s coupon program, which is being managed by the National Telecommunications and Information Agency. As of May 24, Nielsen estimated that around 3.1 million households would have lost all TV reception had the transition occurred on that day. The FCC has stepped up its education efforts to a fever pitch to minimize confusion on June 12. Broadcasters in 41 markets with the highest number of unprepared households will continue airing a “nightlight” program informing people of the transition and providing emergency information. The converter-box coupon program will be accepting requests through July 31.
The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights is teaming up with more than 50 community organizations to collect and distribute unused coupons to needy families. To help out, consumers can mail their unredeemed coupons to:
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund
National DTV Coupon Exchange Program
P.O. Box 66081
Washington, D.C. 20035
-- Deborah D. McAdams
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