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TV Converter-Box Coupons Expiring

10 Jun, 2008 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Nearly 60% of government-issued coupons intended to help consumers pay for digital converter boxes reportedly have expired prior to being redeemed.

The federal government has offered two $40 coupons to households (about 15 million nationwide) most likely affected by next February's mandatory transition to over-the-air digital broadcasts.

Consumers may use the $40 coupons to purchase certified converter boxes for their analog televisions, which rely on over-the-air broadcasts, to keep working after February 17, 2009, when full power TV stations convert to all-digital signals.

TVs connected to cable, satellite or other pay TV services do not need a converter box.

The devices, which can be purchased at most consumer electronics stores, including Best Buy and Circuit City, have reportedly been in short supply at some locations.

To date, about 3 million coupons have been redeemed, according to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which is overseeing the $1.5 billion coupon program.

The NTIA reported that of 840,000 newly expired coupons, just 42% had been redeemed. Expired coupons cannot be replaced.

Rep. Charles Gonzalez, D-Texas, told The Associated Press that if 58% of consumers are ineligible to get new coupons, that could present “some real serious problems.”

Lawmakers urged the NTIA to be lenient with consumers attempting to redeem expired coupons.

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