The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) said that more than 100 retailers – including Best Buy, Target and Wal-Mart – will start accepting coupons on Feb. 17 for converter boxes, which will allow analog TV owners to continue to receive signals once the transition to all-digital signals is complete on Feb. 17, 2009.
TV customers in the U.S. who rely on antennas to receive their TV signals will be allowed two $40 government-funded coupons to purchase converter boxes. The over-the-air customers, estimated to be between 13 million and 21 million across the nation, can contact the government starting Jan. 1 to receive their coupons.
The NTIA, which is a unit of the U.S. Commerce Department, is overseeing the $1.5 billion program that is slated to end March 31, 2009.
The converter boxes are expected to cost about $60 to $70 each. To date, LG Electronics, Digital Stream Technology, Zenith and Magnavox have received the NTIA’s approval for their converter boxes, while other vendors expect approval in the coming weeks.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was criticized earlier this year for not doing enough to tell consumers about the impending switch to all-digital signals. Yesterday, the FCC issued a report in response to the Government Accountability Office’s claims that the FCC didn’t have a comprehensive strategy for the digital transition. The FCC has prompted the move to all-digital signals in order to free up spectrum space.