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House OKs More Cash for DTV Converter Coupon Program

The House this week approved another $20 million to keep the DTV converter subsidy program going. Administrative funds for the $1.5 billion program were previously capped at $160 million, but the federal officials in charge of the program recently warned that the money was going to run out before the demand for coupons subsided. The funds are intended to cover the costs of distributing and verifying the $40 coupons, available two per household on a first-come, first-serve basis. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration was put in charge of the program, and contracted out the management to IBM, which has charged $157.2 million to distribute 44.5 million coupons--$40 million more than it was originally awarded. One problem plaguing the program involves the Congressional mandate that coupons expire 90 days after they’re issued. Many have done so, as people either set on them, search for suitable converters, or just plain have no idea what to look for. The Senate will have to approve the funding before it’s disbursed to the NTIA.