DTV Converter Box Coupons: Apply Now!

Consumer Reports News: January 02, 2008 04:15 PM

Update: The DTV coupon program will end on July 31, 2009. If you still need a converter box, see our new post and apply right away. - Ed.

As you probably know by now, TV as we know it will change next year as the airwaves go all-digital. Most stations now broadcast both analog and digital signals, but that will end February 17, 2009, when a new law requires them to transmit only digitally.

If you have an older non-digital TV that receives programming via rabbit ears or a rooftop antenna, you'lll need to get a set-top converter box that can transform digital over-the-air broadcasts into analog signals that can be received by their TVs. (TVs with a digital ATSC tuner will continue to receive broadcasts via antenna, and TVs connected to cable, satellite and telco-delivered TV services won't be affected.)

To help ease the burden of paying for these government-approved DTV converter boxes, Uncle Sam is offering each household two $40 coupons to buy two digital converter boxes, which are expected to cost $50 to $70. But you have to request the coupons. We suggest you apply immediately, as they're being offered on a first-come, first-served basis until the funding runs out. Another reason to act now: Most stations are already broadcasting digitally, so you can use the converter box as soon as you get one to receive the extra programming and enhanced quality of digital transmissions.

To get your coupons, you can call a toll-free number, 1-888-DTV-2009, and give them your name and address. You can also visit a website, www.dtv2009.gov, to apply. The last day to request coupons is March 31, 2009, but there's no guarantee they’ll be available at that late date if funding for the program runs out. The coupons are good for 90 days, and the federal government is supposedly timing coupon distribution to coincide with retail availability of the DTV converters. Many leading retail chains, including Best Buy, Circuit City, Kmart, RadioShack, Sam's Club, Sears, Target, and Wal-Mart, have been certified to participate in the coupon program.

Every household in America is eligible for coupons, regardless of income. For more information on the coupon program, go the FCC site at www.dtv.gov. Or you can check out these other resources: www.dtvtransition.org, Consumer Reports' online Guide to the Digital TV Transition (www.consumerreports.org/dtv), and HearUsNow.org, a consumer-advocacy Web site managed by Consumers Union (publishers of Consumer Reports).


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