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NTIA says $1.5 billion will pay for DTV coupons

A budget of $1.5 billion has been allocated and should be enough to pay for the distribution of subsidized coupons for DTV converter boxes, said the acting chief of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) last week.

Meredith Attwell Baker, acting head of NTIA, told Rep. John Dingell, D-MI, chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, the $1.5 billion figure already takes into account sending out more than the 33.5 million coupons. Given the 50 percent rate at which the coupons are going unredeemed, the NTIA should be able to have funding for 50 million coupons, she said.

Dingell is holding Baker’s feet to the fire on the coupon issue. He’s concerned that the NTIA doesn’t have enough money to reprocess unredeemed DTV coupons.

Though Baker said negotiations are ongoing with IBM — the company contracted to do the coupon mailing — the NTIA has instructed IBM to prepare to send out another 6 million coupons above the 33.5 million it estimated it would initially be able to send out. She said, depending on the nonredemption rate, her agency might even be able to fund additional coupons.

Meanwhile, the NAB sent DTV information toolkits to each member of Congress last week. It also held a second live webcast for congressional aides.

The toolkits included a PowerPoint presentation on the DTV transition, a video, fact sheets and sample speeches on the DTV transition.