Government's digital TV switch program runs out of money

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In just over a month, we'll see the switch from analog to digital television broadcasts. However, the government's billion-dollar program to help people prepare for the transition now has run out of money.

That means anyone requesting a $40 coupon to offset the cost of buying a converter box for digital TV will now be placed on a waiting list.

According to USA Today, there are already 103,000 people on that list waiting to receive a coupon. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration says the cash shortfall is in part due to a late surge in coupon requests.

In December, consumers requested 7.2 million coupons, and as of Dec. 31, almost 45 million coupons had been requested but only 18 million had been redeemed. The NTIA is considering re-issuing the remaining 27 million once they expire, but that takes 90 days. For most people still wanting the coupon, it will be too late for the Feb. 17 switch.

When the switch from analog TV to digital TV happens, more than 70 million televisions that use an antenna to receive an over-the-air signal will lose all channels except for low-powered stations, which will still be allowed to transmit in analog, temporarily. But eventually, without the box, the signal will go completely black. Consumers who have a newer, digital TV or who subscribe to cable or satellite service will not lose programming.

You do not need a coupon to buy a converter box; you can buy one at most retail stores for $50 to $80. But if you still want to apply for the coupon, or if you already have and would like to check the status of your coupon, check the link on this page.


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Shara Park


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