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NTIA Clears DTV-Box List, Accepts New Applications

3/24/2009 11:16:00 AM Eastern

Washington — The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) said Tuesday that it has started accepting replacement requests from eligible households who failed to redeem their TV converter-box coupons with in the 90-day expiration period.

The NTIA also said it has used money allocated as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to clear the digital-converter-box waiting list, and is processing new converter-box requests from eligible parties with a nine-business-day turnaround time.

"This is very good news for Americans who were unable to redeem their coupons before they expired," stated acting NTIA administrator Anna Gomez. “With the backlog of applications now eliminated, consumers can apply for coupons and get assistance right away, allowing them to continue to receive important local television news and emergency information by purchasing a converter box at a reduced cost.”

The coupon program reached the end of its approved budget on Jan. 4 and had to wait until unredeemed coupons in the field reached their 90-day expiration limit before filling additional coupon requests. Applications received after Jan. 4 were placed on a waiting list until the necessary funds had cleared or additional funds were committed to the program.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) provided the NTIA with $650 million to issue at least 12.25 million more coupons. Coupons are being mailed via first class mail to ensure vulnerable populations are prepared for the transition from analog-to-digital television transmission.

Applications are now being processed on a first-come, first-served basis while supplies last, the NTIA said.

Under revised rules, if an eligible household has redeemed one coupon toward the purchase of a TV converter box and the other coupon has expired, then it will be approved for a single replacement coupon.

“I urge all consumers who are still unprepared for the transition to act today to get their converter boxes and resolve any technical issues well ahead of the June 12 deadline,” Gomez said. “Americans can start experiencing the benefits of digital television with more programming choices and clearer reception as soon as they hook up their converter box.”

Consumers can receive digital television today by purchasing and connecting a TV converter box (with or without a government coupon); buying a digital TV; or subscribing to cable, satellite or another pay service.

The NTIA stressed that any consumers who currently have coupons in hand “should use them immediately.”

The coupons may not be used as a rebate and must be presented to the retailer at the time of purchase.

The DTV Delay Act established June 12 as the final date by which all full-power television stations in the country will be required to shut down analog broadcasts. However, some stations and entire markets may choose to switch before then.

According to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) records, a total of 641 stations (36 percent of the nation’s 1,800 full-power TV stations) terminated their analog signals as of Feb. 17.

More information on the digital television transition is available by calling (888) CALL-FCC (888-225-5322) and online at www.dtv.gov.

Consumers can purchase a converter box at one of the more than 32,000 participating local, phone or online retailer locations.

Households may apply for coupons online at www.dtv2009.gov; by phone at (888) DTV-2009 (888-388-2009); via fax at (877) DTV-4ME2 (877-388-4632); or by mail to P.O. Box 2000, Portland, OR 97208-2000.

Deaf or hard-of-hearing callers may dial (877) 530-2634 (English TTY) or (866) 495-1161 (Spanish TTY).

Nursing-home residents may apply with the paper application available downloadable at www.dtv2009.gov.  For more information about the coupon program, visit www.dtv2009.gov and for questions about the DTV transition, go to www.dtv.gov or call (888) CALL-FCC.