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Official DTV Converter Box Coupons for Americans 375

Posted by timothy
from the please-define-boondoggle dept.
Ant writes "The official Digital Television/DTV Converter Box Coupon Program is now online. Congress created it for households wishing to keep using their analog TV sets and use over-the-air antennae to get TV feeds. After February 17, 2009. The Program allows American households to obtain up to two coupons, each worth $40, that can be applied toward the cost of eligible converter boxes. A TV connected to cable, satellite, or other pay TV service does not require a TV converter box from this program."
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Official DTV Converter Box Coupons for Americans

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  • by jimicus (737525)
    all I can say is "Welcome to 2001!".

    However, I understand there's some difference (apart from just NTSC/PAL) between Europe and US.

    Over here, televisions with built-in cable decoders do not exist. Your cable company provides you with a set top box which does the decoding. Same thing's true of satellite TV. We've started switching over to digital - at least one area has had the analogue TV signal switched off altogether - and set top boxes to decode a digital signal have been on the market for some time.

    I
    • by richie2000 (159732) <rickard.olsson@gmail.com> on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @07:49AM (#21881220) Homepage Journal

      We've started switching over to digital - at least one area has had the analogue TV signal switched off altogether - and set top boxes to decode a digital signal have been on the market for some time.
      Sweden turned off the last analog signal a few months ago.

      Interestingly, televisions without inbuilt digital decoding are still on the market today - though I can't think why.
      Many people live in apartments where the landlord does the decoding, or they already use a satellite receiver which also decodes to analog. The remaining market that only uses DVB-T is actually pretty small, estimates put it at around 30% of the total market (in Swede, YMMV).
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Jon_S (15368)
        Yeah, but then again, you have to remember that Sweden, _successfully_ , switched [volvoclub.org.uk] from driving on the left side of the street to driving on the right side of the street on one day in 1967. I think the swedes are just a little more organized and tuned in.

        I predict a lot "WTF!" from a lot of people in the US come Feb. 2009

        (signed, American of Swedish descent)

        • by MBGMorden (803437) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @09:27AM (#21881872)
          I can agree there. I know of a lot of people who have no idea what the digital switch even is. When I try to break it down into the simplest terms "Your old TV is going to quit working without an extra box in 2009.", they generally just laugh it off as if I'd told them aliens were going to invade.

          Bad thing is, a lot of these people are pretty far from the digital transmitters anyways. I myself have a lot of trouble with it. A few days ago I had posted that I couldn't pickup anything using my digital tuner, and some people mentioned antenna quality (and I was admittedly using a pretty bad antenna). So, I went out and bought a $40 UHF antenna with a powered amplifier. Nice looking little thing. I was amazed that compared to the 0 my set was registering it now reported 9 channels. Unfortuneatly none of them come in strong enough to provide a good watchable picture. It'll be fine for 10 seconds or so and then the image will corrupt for 2-3 seconds. Rinse, repeat. Enough to say "Hey, this picture looks good when it works, and having all the program scheduling and info is nice too, but I can't really watch this as is." I don't think I'm going to get much better without going to something big mounted on the roof (which I'd strongly prefer to avoid).

          I'll just stick with satellite for now which has been digital for a very long time :).
          • by ultranova (717540)

            Unfortuneatly none of them come in strong enough to provide a good watchable picture. It'll be fine for 10 seconds or so and then the image will corrupt for 2-3 seconds. Rinse, repeat. Enough to say "Hey, this picture looks good when it works, and having all the program scheduling and info is nice too, but I can't really watch this as is." I don't think I'm going to get much better without going to something big mounted on the roof (which I'd strongly prefer to avoid).

            I have something big mounted on the

    • by joe 155 (937621)
      "Interestingly, televisions without inbuilt digital decoding are still on the market today - though I can't think why."

      I can tell you why; because people like me buy them. I live in an area that just can't get a digital signal. If I bought a non-analogue tv then I just wouldn't be able to use it. I'd like to get a set top box but that's out of the question. It wouldn't be so bad but I live in the middle of england (actually not too far from the exact center), they don't even have a date when it might wor
  • I have had a digital tuner for about two years now. I was really jazzed when i heard that the networks were going to start transmitting in digital and/or HD. I ran out got the tuner for my HDTV and waited for something to watch. To date the only channels i get are the two OPB (Oregon public Broadcasting) channels. I have looked into it and from what I have heard none of the other networks plan on upgrading the transmission equipment in the area. So, it looks like I will not have anything to watch even
    • The reason the government is giving out these coupons is because as of February 17, 2009, all full-power stations must transmit in digital only. Full-power stations are basically any of the ones you'd actually want to watch; community access stations are generally the only ones that wouldn't qualify as full power.

      Are you sure you aren't confusing the lack of HD broadcasts in your area (720p. 1080i) for a lack of digital broadcasts (480i/480p)? I know plenty of rural folks who are able to pick up digital p
    • I have looked into it and from what I have heard none of the other networks plan on upgrading the transmission equipment in the area.

      Well, I can assure you that either they will upgrade their transmission equipment to do digital broadcasts or they will shut down the stations. There won't be any more analog broadcasting after Feb. 17, 2009. Do note that many people confuse digital broadcasting with high definition and they are very different. The digital TV standard used in the USA, ATSC, supports non
  • by jabberw0k (62554)
    I ordered two coupons, one for my receiver set and one for my VCR.

    Can anyone explain how the VCR's box is gonna know "record channel 10 at 8pm, and channel 12 at 10pm, and channel 15 at 2am" ??? Am I going to have to program the second decoder with parallel multiple programs to the VCR? Or will these boxes have time-programs?

    Or does this kill multiple timed recording completely?
    • I've not owned a TV for a year or so, but the digital cable TV box I had a few years ago could be programmed to switch to a specific channel at a given time by selecting a program from the program guide.
    • by IBBoard (1128019)
      With our Freeview box (digital TV in the UK) we used to just have to make sure it was left on and on the correct channel. You may be able to set up an alarm for the program as well so that the digital box switches over (like someone else said) but the last time I tried one of those it popped up a box five minutes before the program started, which would make consecutive recording difficult.

      It all depends on how you connect it to your VCR, though. If you connect from the digital box to the VCR with SCART then
    • by arivanov (12034)
      With a bog standard VCR - you do not. With some of the higher end PVRs or with a media center box you can use the IR blaster to tell it to.
    • Newer VCRs and DVRs (reasonably priced models from the past ten years or so) have connections for RF transmitters that you can place next to the remote receiver of your decoder box. The VCR can use that to change channels in the same way it could if the connection was directly to the VCR itself. If it doesn't have that, you may be out of luck. Sorry.
    • by sm62704 (957197)
      Huh? Plug the box into the VCR input and the VCR output to the TV input/antenna jack. Now go get a cup of coffee before we susppend your nerd license.

      -mcgrew

      PS: I'm hoping I get mine suspended this afternoon, wish me luck!
  • by s31523 (926314) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @07:49AM (#21881232)

    To request a coupon, consumers can apply online at www.dtv2009.gov. The government also has set up a 24-hour hotline to take requests, 1-888-DTV-2009 (1-888-388-2009).
    I imagine that many people who need these boxes don't have internet access and will never see the phone number displayed anywhere, except the internet. Poor grandma will just see white fuzz on the morning of Feb. 18 2009 instead of The Price Is Right.
    • by linuxci (3530) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @07:57AM (#21881276)

      I imagine that many people who need these boxes don't have internet access and will never see the phone number displayed anywhere, except the internet. Poor grandma will just see white fuzz on the morning of Feb. 18 2009 instead of The Price Is Right.
      But will she notice the difference?
    • by sm62704 (957197)
      I imagine that many people who need these boxes don't have internet access and will never see the phone number displayed anywhere, except the internet

      Believe it or not, many web sites like this one [suntimes.com] and this one [nytimes.com] have paper editions of their sites, and almost everyone without web access gets it delivered to their home daily!

      Wierd, huh?

      These sites are all giving out the phone number.

      -mcgrew
  • by dnoyeb (547705) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @07:50AM (#21881234) Homepage Journal
    In other news, the price of converter boxes just went up by $40...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BobPaul (710574) *
      Exactly my thought, but I don't think that'll be the real outcome. The price of these boxes is already $100+, which is too much IMHO for most consumers to purchase. With the forced shutoff of analog, demand increases and prices can reflect that. However, that also leaves lots of opportunity for someone to attempt to corner the market with a discount receiver. With or without the coupon, other manufacturers still need to compete with that guy.

      What the coupon REALLY does is prevent the price from dropping bel
      • by sm62704 (957197)
        The government site with the coupons says the boxes retail between $50 and $70. If I have to spend more than twenty bucks on this bullshit my congresscritter's going to get an earful from me.

        -mcgrew
      • by MoonBuggy (611105)
        I'd be surprised to hear that we were getting anything cheaper in the UK than you do in the US, and we can get converter boxes for £10 ($20) from a major supermarket; before that the 'standard' price for many of them was £20 ($40). Considering that we tend to pay higher pre-tax prices and have to pay much more VAT than you guys, I'd suggest that something rather odd is going on to keep the prices artificially high. Unless, I suppose, the US digital broadcast tech has some alteration that makes p
    • by Asic Eng (193332)
      Doubt it, that's not how the market works. The seller is not interested where the buyer's money comes from. The buyer still wants to spend as little as possible, the seller still needs to compete against others who are willing to offer a lower price. The market will still work and drive down the price as a result. It gets interesting on the low end though: there is no benefit for the buyer to spend less than $40, and that could remove the incentive to drive the price down further than that. However the sell
      • by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @09:38AM (#21881954)
        It's how it worked in the 'college' market. "Well if the government is giving everyone 10k, we might as well still make parents pay." Tuition is at an all time high.
        It's how it worked for health care. "Well most people have insurance anyway. No reason not to charge $150 for a pair of crutches". Health care is at an all time high.
        • by Asic Eng (193332)
          The college market is a seller's market - they have the service that everybody wants, so they can raise the price until demand drops off. Since a lot depends on the name of the college it's difficult to compete. I agree with your description of the health care market - the market forces have been removed where it counts - you'd need to provide an incentive e.g. for the use of cheaper crutches. One of the problems is that once you've been run over by a car you are often not in a great negotiation position...
  • Priorities? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Max Romantschuk (132276) <max@romantschuk.fi> on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @08:02AM (#21881304) Homepage
    In Finland we switched over to purely digital terrestrial broadcasting last year. And most people did indeed have to get a DVB-T STB (Set Top Box) in order to watch TV. Despite of this, the government did not subsidize this this switchover in any way. I find it almost sad that the United States government are willing to pay for something like this when Finland's (already broken) public healthcare system it still way better than it's US counterpart.

    OK, so I might be trolling, but doesn't it say something about a society when TV is regarded as something important enough to subsidize? (Disclaimer: Finland has it's own equivalent to the BBC though, YLE.)
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Bread and circuses, just bread and circuses.
    • The converter boxes are subsidized because the FCC mandated this switchover and set the timetable for it. They're the ones pushing for it because they want spectrum for emergency services and to auction off a chunk for mobile devices. I'm sure whatever the government is paying to subsidize these boxes will be made up for by what they get from Verizon, Sprint, et al.
    • by niceone (992278) *
      Switching to digital TV frees up spectrum, which the government can then sell - they should still make a profit even after subsidising the converters. If you look at it that way this is not a subsidy, it is compensation for them taking away the analog spectrum so they can sell it.
    • This isn't a subsidy, its a vote buy.

      Buying votes and getting people to turn to government. Yes it is only $80 or so.

      Please quit trying to dismiss us as a society lost, the big thing wrong with the US is the government. Our society is just fine otherwise. The real sad thing is that the 2008 election won't change anything
      • Our society is just fine otherwise. The real sad thing is that the 2008 election won't change anything
        Some would find these two statements to be contradictory.
        • by vidarh (309115)
          It wouldn't have been if you quoted the preceding line as well, instead of picking two sentences out of context.
    • by sm62704 (957197)
      I find it almost sad that the United States government are willing to pay for something like this when Finland's (already broken) public healthcare system it still way better than it's [sic] US counterpart.

      The US has no counterpart. Many people I know have no health insurance of any kind and can't pay for the extremely expensive health care we have. My best friend died in 1992 from lack of health insurance.

      The US is the most socially backwards nation in the industrialized world, and I for one am ashamed of
    • It's not really subsidized in the usual sense of the word. The move to digital is to free up spectrum that's going to be auctioned off for mobile services. Some of the money from this will go to "subsidizing" the digital boxes (eg paying for the equipment needed, rather than forcing people to be inconvenienced or pay for the equipment themselves)

      To use a really awful car analogy, because this is Slashdot, this is like a land-owner deciding that a valuable access road should be torn up so they can sell th

    • Re:Priorities? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MightyYar (622222) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @09:49AM (#21882046)
      It's not quite THAT silly. The government is going to make a lot of money auctioning off that freed-up spectrum. Surely compensating the people who will end up sacrificing to make way for that auction is not completely absurd? If the spectrum is worth $10 billion (which I think is a bit conservative), they would have to give away 250,000,000 $40 coupons before beginning to lose money on the swap. There are only 266 million TVs in the US, and I highly doubt that all of them will see a digital over-the-air box, especially since more than half of them are hooked up to cable.

      And of course, there is the environmental impact of 100,000,000 TVs all hitting the landfill at the same time as people realize that it isn't cost effective to buy a box for their 5-10 year-old TV.
  • by wiredog (43288) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @08:07AM (#21881334) Journal
    He's 79, and doesn't watch much TV. Reads quite a bit, is into model railroading (HO Gauge, Western US, late steam era), does quite a bit on the PC (his first program was written in Fortran, on punch cards, in the 50's),hikes all over Utah, and takes lots of pictures with his digital camera.

    He doesn't have time to watch TV, except at meals, when he watches the news.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @08:24AM (#21881438)
      Thanks for letting us know.
      • by sm62704 (957197)
        Oddly enough, his ./ journal is identical to the comment!

        -mcgrew
        • by wiredog (43288)
          And I got rated "3, insightful"...

          Someday I'll get a troll rated "+5, flamebait"...

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by sm62704 (957197)
            That's what I love about slashdot! If I go for "funny" (like I did with that comment) I get modded "insightful" unless it involves Natalie Portman, grits, the USSR, or a beowolf cluster. IINM any comment that contain any of the above terms is automatically moderated "+5 funny".

            I think thre really are no mods here, from the way comments are moderated I'd say there was some sort of bot doing it. I mean, I've seen countless first posts that are on-topic and interesting or informative that are rated "redundant"
  • by theonetruekeebler (60888) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @08:18AM (#21881396) Homepage Journal
    Between agribusiness subsidies for corn and wheat growers (73% of which is done by a dozen companies and families) and now coupons to let people continue watching television (80% of which is controlled by a half-dozen companies), it's finally happened: The American Empire has entered its "Bread and Circuses" stage, and tax money is going directly into making its citizens sit on their asses watching television and eating Twinkies.

    And a quick poll: How many of you think that the government issuing $40 coupons for converter boxes is going to raise the price of converter boxes by $40?

    • I read somewhere that the anticipated price of the boxes will be around $50. If that's true, then $10 out of pocket is not bad/unreasonable. However, looking at BestBuy.com right now, the only dtv converter they have retails for $180. There's no way I'm spending $180-$40=$140x2=$280 to continue watching TV on my two sets. The whole point of over-the-air transmissions is to save a little money.

      Has anyone heard if these converters will require another remote? Or will they remap the digital channels onto the a
      • by jimicus (737525)
        Don't know about in the US, but most of the UK boxes can handle things like volume separately. So you turn the volume on your TV to maximum, connect the box to an aux input on the TV leave the TV on aux for the remainder of its useful life. Bonus if the TV will automatically switch itself off when there's nothing coming in on an aux input.
    • by Valar (167606)
      Please. Every self respecting american plebian already has cable, possibly satellite, probably digital in either case. This only affects people who have been holding on to their rabbit ears and getting all the TV you can get for free. We entered the bread and circus stage a long time ago, and we did it voluntarily. In fact, we, as a populace, demanded it.
    • by elrous0 (869638) *
      Well. while I generally hate government meddling and the FCC, I have to give them kudos on this one (even if they're doing it for the wrong reasons). The U.S. *has* to be weened off the old NTSC analog system. And the market will never be enough to do that by itself without some prompting by the government. While the market may allow things like color television to come in (stuff that's backwards compatible with the old system) it would be virtually impossible to force television affiliates to upgrade to pr
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by garcia (6573)
      I have been speaking out against this fleecing of America for years. I'm mostly upset with the unnecessary spectrum selloff and the fact that Congress is only allocating 1.5 billion for this program.

      They forced a completely unnecessary program and will profit from the money that is really owned by the people. If we truly own the spectrum then the people should not have to pay a cent as I'm sure the revenue generated will be far more than 1.5 billion.
      • by AusIV (950840) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @10:44AM (#21882578)
        Exactly. When I first heard about this, I thought it was ridiculous that tax payer dollars would go towards paying so people could keep watching TV. I could see a little justification that the FCC is forcing the antequation of millions if not billions of dollars worth of televisions, and the people using bunny ears are the least likely to be able to afford to replace their televisions.


        But now that I realize this funding is coming from the sale of the 700 mhz spectrum (of which bidding is expected to start in the $4 billion range), I feel that any expenses endured due to the sale of the spectrum ought to be covered by the sale of the spectrum. If the sale of the 700 mhz spectrum can't cover the costs of selling the 700 mhz spectrum, then we shouldn't be selling it. While I am looking forward to the new services that will (hopefully) become available on the spectrum, it seems like the FCC is getting ready to profit by selling millions of televisions that they don't own. They're selling America short by not covering all of the costs of the transition.

    • by Wylfing (144940)

      How many of you think that the government issuing $40 coupons for converter boxes is going to raise the price of converter boxes by $40?

      That's exactly what I was thinking when I read about this. It's a giant government give-away to the converter box companies. I sure wish that every time I made a sale, the government would throw in an extra 40 dollars for me.

      Or wait, I really don't -- I don't need the government taxing me $80 and giving me $40 back so that I can spend $75 on a forced upgrade.

  • by Megane (129182) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @08:34AM (#21881496) Homepage
    I've already heard on usenet that they expire after 90 days. If you don't think you'll buy a box (or even be able to find one) within 90 days, then WAIT before asking for coupons!
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      After you apply, you get this: "IMPORTANT: TV converter boxes are not expected to be available in retail stores until late February or early March. You will receive your Coupon(s) then. The Coupon will expire within 90 days from the date it is issued."
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by DataBroker (964208)
      Per #13 under 'Using a Coupon' on their FAQ [dtv2009.gov]

      Coupons expire 90 days after they are mailed. Each coupon has an expiration date printed on it.
  • Once again we have government having to spend money and create a bureaucracy to solve a problem it created. If they hadn't mandated the switch to this new TV transmission format, we wouldn't be faced with this problem of either having to buy an expensive new TV or be force steal from your fellow citizens and participate in this program. If this format was really that great the TV stations would have switched by themselves b/c its viewers would have demanded it. However I suspect most folks are like me an
    • > I suspect most folks are like me and think the current picture delivered is quite exceptional quality

      Well, that would be a big no. If that was true, DVDs and their quality increase over VHS/SDTV would have never taken off. And since HDTV has 5x the resolution of DVDs, the quality difference versus SDTV is obvious to most people.

      And, while I don't think the incentives were necessary, I also don't agree with your assessment of the changeover. You're arguing for a free market solution, where a free
  • Digital broadcast and my MythTV are all the tube time I want and need. By the time people realize conversion sucks hopefully commercial HD broadcast sets will be plentiful.

  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @09:54AM (#21882098) Homepage
    Last year, the FCC website said that converter boxes were available "now." I emailed them about it, because I couldn't find any, and they simply emailed me back a long email with the same text that appeared on the website... text that said they were available "now." No hints about what companies were providing them or where I could get one.

    I was on the mailing list for email updates, and a couple of months ago, they emailed an update that the coupon program would begin on January 1st, 2008 and either stated or clearly implied that converters would be available then.

    I called the 800 number on that date and, indeed, it is possible to request the coupons... but the message says that converters are, in fact, not yet available and that the coupons will not be mailed until mid-February.
  • Currently, in Australia, you can get a digital set top box at Kmart for $50 or less. They only decode standard definition, but then again the TVs that these will be plugged into won't show HD anyway.

    Why on earth would you need a subsidy?
  • by Odonian (730378) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @10:17AM (#21882328)
    OK, I admit I'm a cheap bastard and I do Netflix instead of Cable/Satellite, but I've got the antenna for local channels and a few older TVs, so I'm going to need one of these puppies. Here's the list of elegible converter boxes from the web site. Any opinions on which one is the best box, or experiences using any of these?

    • DigitalSTREAM D2A1D10
    • DigitalSTREAM D2A1D20
    • Zenith DTT900
    • Magnavox TB100MW9
    • Philco TB150HH9
    • MicroGEM MG2000
    • Sansonic FT300RT
    • MaxMedia MMDTVB03
    • Apex DT1001
    • ECHOSTAR TR-40
    • AMTC AT-2016
    Thanks!
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Jeremy Erwin (2054)
      I've heard that the DTV convertors are, by government mandate, really basic. Stereo Audio. Composite Video, RF out on channel 3 or 4.

      No HDMI, S-Video or Component. No SPDIF. and certainly no firewire.

  • Mmmm pork (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Oafed (1094601) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @11:31AM (#21883120)
    1.5 BILLION dollars of our tax money is going into upgrading peoples TV. Thats every cent of tax paid by about 210,000 middle class families this year. When TWO!? of your TVs get cut off and you can't live without them then get off your fat ass and earn the $80 yourself.

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