The digital-to-analog converter box coupon program is a result of the digital transition, which occurred on June 12, 2009. The subsidy program was enacted to provide over-the-air television viewers with an affordable way to continue receiving free digital over-the-air television services after the nation's television service transitioned to digital transmission and analog transmissions ceased.
Because so many people needed to buy a DTV converter box, the U.S. government initiated a $40 coupon program to help ease the financial burden that consumer's might feel as a result of the digital TV mandate. The coupons were offered by the government due to changing laws about over-the-air broadcasts, which required all broadcasts to switch to a digital-only format.
The digital-to-analog converter boxes made DTV signals viewable on analog TV sets. These converter boxes were available in retail stores during the transition
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In an effort to curb the financial impact on analog TV households, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce developed a converter box coupon program that allowed analog TV households to request two $40 coupons towards the purchase of a digital-to-analog converter box. The program enjoyed input from the broadcast and consumer electronics industries as well as public interest groups.
The program ran from January 1, 2008 and March 31, 2009. As of July 31, 2009, consumers can no longer obtain free coupons from the United States government to purchase a digital converter box.
Coupon Program Basics
The coupon program totaled $990 million with a continuation fund of $510 million for OTA users only. It gained additional funding in 2009 because of its popularity. Here are the basics of the program:
- Coupons valued at $40 each
- Only two coupons could be requested per household
- Only one coupon could be used per converter box purchase
- Coupons were tracked electronically
- Coupons expired within 90 days
The program allowed people with expired coupons to reapply until the program's deadline in July 2009.
The application procedure was pretty easy. You could apply online, over the phone, by fax, or snail mail. An application required:
- Your name
- Number of coupons requested
- Confirmation that you used an over-the-air analog signal
- Confirmation that no other household member was applying for the coupons
Once approved, the applications were sent and arrived at your location via the United States Postal Service. The coupons were actually gift cards that can be used only on specific products. You redeemed the coupons where converter boxes are sold.
At midnight on July 31, 2009, the program expired, without extension. Toward the end of July, consumers were making 35, 000 requests for coupons per day, with just over half those issued being used. On July 30, though, the number of requests totaled 78, 000, and on the final day, 169, 000 were received. Requests sent via mail with a postmark of July 31 or earlier were processed; about $300 million in funding remained. By August 5, 2009, consumers had used 33, 962, 696 coupons.