Letter From Congressman Wilson

Today’s subject is the federal coupon program for converter boxes for those on analog TV’s and antenna service only:

Dear Friends,

As of early this week, consumers requesting coupons from the the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) are being placed on a waiting list.  Because of the high demand for the coupons, the program is currently out of money. Coupons will be mailed on a first-come-first-served basis, as funds from expired coupons become available. 

As you are likely aware, television as we know it, will change on February 17, 2009. If consumers don’t prepare, they could be left without a television signal. The Digital Television Transition and Public Safety Act of 2005 requires full-power television stations to cease analog broadcasts and switch to digital after February 17, 2009. Digital broadcasting will offer a clearer picture, more programming choices and will free up the airwaves for emergency first responders and new telecommunication services, however, I am concerned about the cost to consumers as they make the conversion needed to receive a digital signal.

The Coupon Program was designed to help households with analog televisions–not connected to cable, satellite or other pay TV service–to buy a converter box so the TV works when full-power TV broadcasters transition from analog to 100 percent digital broadcasts on February 17, 2009. Please know that I support making additional funds available for the coupon program.

I have been informed that when consumers contact the Coupon Program to request coupons, they will now receive a message that they have been placed on a waiting list and will receive coupons on a first-come, first-served basis, as coupons become available and funds are returned to the U.S. Treasury from expired coupons. Consumers will receive a reference number that they should write down and use to check the status of their order at the Coupon Program’s Web site, www.DTV2009.gov.

According to the NTIA, more than 24 million households have requested more than 46 million coupons and more than 18 million coupons have been redeemed. Consumers holding coupons should redeem them before the coupon expires within 90 days from the date it is mailed. To date, 52.5 percent of coupons requested have been redeemed and more than 13 million coupons have expired. 

With just a few weeks until the transition to digital television, 12.6 million households that rely on television with an antenna have requested coupons, based on consumers self-reporting. The Nielsen Company reported recently that in January 2008, 14.3 million households rely on TV with an antenna. I don’t want to see any of these households in the dark in February. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact my office.

Charlie Wilson
Member of Congress
Ohio’s Sixth District




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