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NTIA releases converter box coupon program details

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Monday released details of a government coupon program that will make available to all U.S. households up to two $40 coupons to be applied to the purchase of up to two digital-to-analog converter boxes necessary to continue using ordinary TVs after the February 2009 analog switchoff.

According to the NTIA — the Commerce Department agency charged with carrying out the program — the coupons will be available to households beginning Jan. 1, 2008. By law, if the initial $990 million allotted to the program is used up, another $510 million can be allocated for the coupon program. Once those funds are used up, coupons will be limited exclusively to over-the-air TV households that "self-certify to NTIA" that they don't subscribe to cable, satellite or another pay service.

The cost of the coupon program is to be paid for by a portion of the proceeds from the auctioning of TV spectrum used for analog transmission that will be returned to the government.

Households using analog televisions won't be able to receive digital broadcasts after Feb. 17, 2009, unless the set is connected to a box that converts the digital signal to an analog format, or the analog television is connected to cable or satellite service.

The NTIA laid out the specifics of the program for consumers, retailers and manufacturers. For the rules of the program specific to consumers, manufacturers and retailers, click here.

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