Digital TV Will Soon Be Here! - Are You Prepared? PDF Print E-mail

Digital TV Will Soon Be Here: $40 Coupons to Help Consumers with Transition

By Anthony G. Wilhelm, Director, Consumer Education & Public Information, TV Converter Box Coupon

Program, National Telecommunications & Information Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce

Imagine watching your favorite primetime TV program, when all of a sudden your analog TV

screen goes to black…for good. There is still time to prevent this situation, as long as you know

your options.

On February 17, 2009, all full-powered television stations will begin broadcasting only in digital,

as required by law. For consumers, this means the possibility of a clearer picture and more

programming options. Digital TV will also free up portions of the television airwaves, known as

spectrum, which will be turned over to fire and police departments for emergency


Consumers with analog TVs will need to take action to make sure their TV sets still work after

February 17, 2009, however, they do have options. They can: 1) buy a converter box that will

plug into their current analog TV, 2) buy a TV with a digital tuner or 3) connect their analog TV

to cable, satellite or other pay service. TV viewers who want to continue using “rabbit ears” or a

rooftop antenna for over-the-air TV must buy a digital-to-analog converter box to enable their

analog TV sets to work after the transition date.

To help households with the transition, the Federal government is providing coupons toward the

purchase of coupon-eligible converter boxes. This program is run by the National

Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), part of the U.S. Department of


From now through the end of March 2009, all U.S. households are able to request, on a firstcome,

first-served basis, up to two, $40 coupons to help pay for the cost of certified converter

boxes. The government has developed a simple application process requiring consumers to only

provide their name, address, whether they subscribe to a pay TV service and whether they want

one or two coupons. Converter boxes are expected to cost between $40 to $70 dollars, however,

this is a one-time cost, with no monthly service charges.

Consumers who apply for coupons will receive them in the mail. The coupon is red in color and

looks like a plastic gift card or credit card. Coupons will expire 90 days after they are mailed

and cannot be replaced. NTIA is working hard to make it easy for consumers to find

participating converter box retailers in their area. When coupons are mailed, they will come with

a list of eligible converter boxes as well as a list of participating retailers. That information will

also be posted on NTIA’s Web site. Coupons cannot be combined, so only one coupon may be

used toward the purchase of a converter box, and coupons must be redeemed at the time

converter boxes are purchased.

Today, more than 1,600 local stations are already broadcasting digital content and creating more

news, public affairs, sports and weather programs through “multicasting,” the ability to broadcast

more than one channel. Consumers can purchase a converter box and connect it to an analog TV

today and begin to experience the benefits of a clearer picture and these additional channels


Awareness is key to the success of the Coupon Program, and NTIA knows it cannot raise it

alone. NTIA is partnering with many “trusted voices” – institutions and organizations on the

ground and in communities throughout the country – to help educate consumers about the digital

TV transition and Coupon Program. It is important for consumers to know their options and

make sure their family, friends and neighbors are aware of whether they need to take action

before the transition date. The important thing is that no one is left in the dark on February 17,


For more information about the TV Converter Box Coupon Program, or to apply for coupons,

visit or call toll free 1-888-388-2009 (1-888-DTV-2009). The hearing

impaired may call the TTY number 1-877-530-2634 for information in English, and for

information in Spanish, consumers can call TTY number 1-866-495-1161. Consumers can also

request and submit a coupon application by mailing PO Box 2000, Portland, OR 97208 or by

faxing 1-877-DTV-4ME2 (1-877-388-4632).

The transition deadline will be here soon. Working together, we can make this historic digital

transition a success for all Americans.



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