Technology

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Darryl Bush/AP
Comcast Cable technician Julio Rodriguez, left, explains how a new digital converter cable
box
works after installation.

Government Running Out of Digital TV Converter Coupons

December 29, 2008 10:59 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
The government is running out of money to subsidize the digital televisions conversion, and one representative wants Congress to appropriate more money.

Millions Could Be Without Signal in February

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Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., asked for an update on the program that is helping people keep up with the switch from analog to digital broadcast signals. The Department of Commerce said the program is running out of money, and is expected to hit its $1.34 billion limit at the beginning of January, Reuters reported.

“Once the obligation ceiling is reached, the program will hold coupon requests until funds from unredeemed coupons become available,” said Meredith Attwell Baker, acting assistant secretary for Communications and Information at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, in a Dec. 24 letter, Reuters said. The letter was addressed to Markey, who is chairman of the House’s Telecommunications and Internet subcommittee.

Markey, in a statement, said that Congress might need to act “quickly to pass additional funding for the converter box program in early January to prevent any delay in coupon availability or issuance.”

USA Today reports that the digital converter coupons can take six weeks to arrive once ordered, so those who haven’t yet requested one could miss the deadline. Up to 70 million homes have televisions that use antennaes, which won’t work without a converter box after the Feb. 17 switch. Nationwide, there are nearly 300 million televisions in use.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration told USA Today that approximately 22 million households have asked for 41 million coupons, but of those, 14 million have been redeemed.

The necessary converter costs between $40 and $90, and the government-issued coupons offset $40 of the cost.

Background: The digital changeover, and TV recycling

Are you prepared for the federally mandated shutdown of analog broadcasting that is set to occur on Feb. 17, 2009?

Eighty-seven percent of TV-watching households in the United States already get their programming through cable or satellite, reports Popular Mechanics, and will not need to take any action to receive the new signals.

Digital television is supposed to offer viewers clearer pictures, better sound quality and more programming options than analog. Those who still rely on their analog TVs will have to buy a converter box to be able to see the new digital signals.

The federally mandated changeover to digital television broadcasts in February 2009 means that a lot of old cathode-ray tube (CRT) display TV sets will be headed to the landfill, as people replace them with new digital TVs—usually flat-panel LCD and plasma screens, according to Popular Mechanics.

The EPA said in 2006 and 2007 only 18 percent of television sets were recycled. The ones that do get recycled often end up in developing countries where CRT sales are still strong. Factories take the old sets and rebuild them into new ones, according to Robin Ingenthron of American Retroworks in Vermont.

While TVs and other electronic garbage make up only a tiny 2 percent of the total amount of American garbage, the lead content in CRTs makes it particularly important that they get disposed of properly.

Related Topic: Prisons concerned about digital TV switchover

Reference: How to recycle your old TV

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