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DTV Coupons: The Consumer Catch-22

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 .

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65 thoughts on “DTV Coupons: The Consumer Catch-22”

  1. Well, I got stuck with expired coupons, too. However, I was able to get a friend to apply for me. Unfortunately, that was back in late August, and I still don’t have any coupons. We e-mailed the site inquiring on October 20, asking if they ran out or something, and they said to give it another 2-3 weeks. It’s been nearly four. We e-mailed again today. I just love it.

  2. Wait till you try one of these pieces of crap in a rural area, bet the government didn’t even test one of these out, They don’t hold onto a long range signal for nothing, got 4 coupouns, tried 4 different ones, Where does that mystery money if you return them, back to the government? get a hdtv don’t waste time on the box, total crap made in some Chinese garage for 20 cents, these boxes Will probably burn your house down from bad soldering and wireing. They scare me.

  3. Seems to me the coupon should never have been, we should have all been able to simply purchase this dtv box and the nessasary paperwork be filed by the company it was purchased from. how many times I arrived at a store to find no unit available,or units available but didn’t have coupons on me only to come back in a couple of days to find all were sold, at this point I really, no longer [care] if I have TV or not given the extremely poor programming that is availlable anyway. books are infinatly more entertaining.

  4. I am experiencing the same dilemma as others — my coupons expired. I ordered early and received them in April 2008. I was stupid for not looking thoroughly reviewing the coupon information and learning that they expired. I ordered the coupons again on the internet, and received a letter from the DTV Converter Box Program “authorities” in Portland that said I could not receive new coupons. They also said that there is no restriction in the program for giving the coupons to someone else. I have a family member who is giving me their coupons.
    I have already lost channels on Comcast when several channels (specifically the TV Guide channel) decided to move to digital in early November. Now I see snow on those channels.

  5. i ordered my coupons in october and got them in november. i was able to purchase a box at brandsmart (doraville GA) $8 out of pocket. that same day i checked in the local walmarts, best buy and targets and they all had them. prices ranged from $44 to $59.

    for those of you wondering what will happen in feb to their tv thats hooked up to analog cable, you should be fine. the fcc ruling is only desiged to shut off analog BROADCAST stations, what you receive with and antenna hooked up to your tv. the ruling has nothing to do with cable providers.

    currently your cable provider sends an analog signal and a digital one into your house. current cable ready tvs can view unscrambled analog cable w/out a box. if you have a digital tv w/ digtial cable tuner you can view the same channels analog or digital, again unscrambled.

    however; if the cable comp wants to “migrate” some of the analog channels to the digital stream your analag cable ready tv will not see those channels any more. the digital tv will only see the channel if it is not encrypted/scrambled. the only way a digital tv can see an encrypted digital channel is with a digital box or a cable card, both of wich can only be found at your local cable proider.

    why would they migrate the channels?

    a: to offer you more channels. each analog channel carries enough bandwidth for 6 standard def digital channels or 2 Hi Def channels

    B: greed, they will charge you the initial cable subscrip fee and the additional outlet fees for each box you have in the house.

    C: circumvent the cable thieves. cable companies have had a hard time stopping people from illegally hooking up cable, plus prewired houses and cable ready tvs pissed them off royally. if they decide to go all digital except for the must carry channels (broadcast nets, pbs) the thieves would have to subscribe to something, $$$ windfall for cable/sat co. even if they have digital cable ready tvs they still cannot see anything the cable co doesnt want you to see unless you pay. for the proper services and equipment.

    (in the 80’s the cable comp came to your house and installed the wiring because most homes were not prewired for cable. many tvs at that time were not cable ready either. so you were generally billed for the install and each room that had one of those analog cable boxes.)

    so if they decided to as a bu$ine$$ decision they could, but its not in the FCC mandate to do so.

    yes in time sombody may hack the encryption, but the majority wont. it is a difficult thing to do. cable box manufactures only sell them to cable companies, and the same goes for cable card manufacturers.

  6. somebody hit the nail on the head, i feel that the retailers were intentionally keeping the supplies short because they want people to buy the shiny new HDTV.

    secondly the DTV converters were closer to ~$40 to $50 before the public became more aware of the DTV cupons.

  7. At least you got your coupons. Mine got lost in the mail, and now they say I can’t get anymore. I never even got them in the first place.

  8. I bought a HDTV without a tuner- it was a great price, but quite a headache. I currently get cable to it from a VCR player. And my school provides cable with a few HD channels. If I were to purchase a converter box such as the Access HD box will I be able to view these channels?

  9. I ordered the coupons and never received them. I am on SSI and can’t afford to buy converter boxes. This is not fair to me. There are others in my building who says they never received any either. My TV is my only entertainment. since I am disable. I need help.

  10. I applied for my converter box on Dec. 08, 2008 and they were sceduled to be mailed on Dec. 26, 2008. To date, I have not received my coupons and have no way to find out if they were even mailed or if they have been confiscated at the post office or from my mail box. I need an email address to confirm if the coupons have been used.

  11. I ordered coupons too around Dec 9th — two coupons for 4 different households and none of the housholds have received their coupons yet….I look on the website and all it say when I type in the confirmation code is — they should have been mailed on Dec 22 — and it will take approx 10 days to mail them. Well, it has been over 20days since Dec 22nd —– and I still don’t have them…what do I do now?

  12. I ordered our coupons on 12/19/2008. When I check status on the website it says if ordered between December 13 – 19, 2008 , the target mail date is 1/2/2009 with delivery expected approximately 10 days from the date mailed. It is 1/28 and they still have not arrived. If the target mail dates have been delayed , they could at least update the website schedule or post another option to find the status.

  13. I have an expired coupon and now no store will accept it. How dumb is that? So we, the taxpayers, are going to spend more money printing more cards for all those who have not used their cards and are now expired. Isn’t a trillion dollar debt enough? Do we really want to spend more money to make new cards? OMG!!!



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