For the next year, you will hear repeated public service messages about analog television service being elminated on February 17, 2009. It will be replaced by digital TV service (DTV), and all TV stations will only broadcast in digital format. The problem: what if you only have an old-fashioned TV? Will it go black a year from now?
Easy answer: it might if you get your signal using rabbit ears or an old-fashioned antenna. The solution: get a digital converter box that will take the new digital signals and convert them back to analog. To help with the expense of buying these boxes, Uncle Sam has set up a coupon program to offer each household up to two $40 coupons toward the purchase of digital TV converter boxes.
*MOUSE PRINT: Some key facts are buried in the fine print or not well disclosed, including:
1. You cannot combine the coupons toward the purchase of a single box (each will cost between $50 and $70 approximately).
2. The coupons expire 90 days from their mailing to you, and expired coupons will not be replaced.
3. There are only 22.5 million coupons unless Congress authorizes 11.25 million more.
4. While some boxes have already been approved, more are expected.
5. Many if not most retailers do not have the boxes in stock yet.
Translation: The consumer has a dilemna. The coupons are available now, but the boxes are not. If you order your coupons now, the 90 day clock will begin to run on them when mailed, but you will likely have fewer choices of boxes and brands. If you wait for a better choice of boxes, all the coupons might be gone. And, initially, boxes are not likely to be on sale. Later in the year competition will likely be more stiff, and prices may drop low enough for the coupon to cover nearly the full cost.
Ideally, the coupons should have had no expiration, so the sharp consumer could order them now, but have time to choose more wisely from a fuller selection of converter boxes when they become available.
The trick is to get a coupon as late in the program as possible without the supply having already been exhausted. No easy task.
For more information on the details of the coupon program, including an application form, visit DTV2009.gov .