Digital TV Transition: Converter Coupon Program Maxes Out Budget
Digital Converter sample coupon
Those who have put off buying the converter boxes that will enable them to watch TV when the federally-mandated switch to digital broadcasting takes place next month may have to shell out some extra cash.
The government's $1.34 billion coupon program that would help viewers offset the cost of analog-to-digital converter boxes reached its funding limit Sunday, according to The Associated Press. Now, anyone who requests one of the $40 coupons will be placed on a waiting list, the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration says.
So how long will you have to wait? There is no clear answer at this point, but 103,000 people are already in line in front of you.
The shortage is being attributed to a late surge in coupon requests. In December, 7.2 million coupons were requested, more than doubling the requests that were made in October.
The digital transition will take place on Feb. 17. When the switch happens, the more than 70 million TVs in the U.S. that receive free, over-the-air broadcast signals via an antenna or "rabbit ears" will be unable to watch their television without a digital converter box. The boxes range from $40 to $70, and can be purchased without a coupon.
The NTIA is encouraging people to put their names on the waiting list (which you can do here), though there is no guarantee they will receive a coupon before the Feb. 17 switch. Coupons will be sent to those on the list as already issued coupons expire, freeing up the budget that is currently capped.
For more on the digital transition, check out our FAQ here.