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Problems With DTV Coupon Program



January 10th, 2009 10:20 am | by Ed |

I don't suppose that it can possibly be even a hint of a surprise to discover that the DTV Coupon Program is having a problem. I know that I'm not surprised that yet another government program is out of money.

This coupon program was supposed to be funded from the $20 billion dollars resulting from the FCC auctioning off the soon to be ex-analog tv frequencies. Yet they're now complaining about being out of money and there's talk about getting money out of the next stimulus package (more government vaporware? Time will tell.)

Why are they running out of money? Well, partly because even though those frequency auctions netted some $20 Billion dollars, only about $1.5 Billion has be allocated to the converter box program. Add this to the fact that snail mail delivery of the coupons is taking as long as four weeks or more and you can pretty much be certain that come Feb 17, 2009 there's going to be a LOT of people that are royally pissed because their analog tv sets are worthless without the converter boxes. ... even if they did request the coupons "early enough".

Then there's another factor that not many are saying much about. You see, when TV goes digital on Feb 17, it's also going to mean a reduction in power levels as well. This means that if you're one of the millions that live in rural areas and are more than say 70 to 80 miles from the tv station's transmitter, the converter box could just turn out to be a really big paperweight because there won't be a strong enough signal to make it worth turning on.

And before people start saying things like "get cable or satellite and don't worry about it.", that's not always such an easy proposition out here in the sticks. Rural areas are almost always among the last to get services like these and when they DO get them, you get stuck with the oldest, barely working equipment that the provider has on hand because they're going to keep the new stuff for their big city markets with LOTs more customers and revenue.

In the end I suppose that this is what happens when lawyers and politicians handle something that instead should be run by tech savvy people.

Technorati Tags: cable tv, rural areas, coupons, stimulus package, government program, tv frequencies, tv station, converter boxes, digital tv, satellite tv, fcc, analog tv, tv sets, coupon program, city markets

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2 Comments

  1. Christine on 10.01.2009 at 12:41 (Reply)


    Another thing that irks me about people who suggest getting cable or satellite TV…even if those services were available in all rural areas, there is the fact that there are many people who simply cannot afford it.

    And reception problems are not just in rural areas. Our mutual friend Kat has been having reception problems with her box, and she doesn’t live out in the boonies. She can’t afford cable or satellite, either. So if she can’t find a solution to this by the deadline, she’s stuck.

    We’re happy with our converter boxes, but it’s distressing that so many people will have no TV at all come February 17.

    Christines last blog post..A New Project

    1. Ed on 10.01.2009 at 13:02 (Reply)


      You’re so right. Over the last few months I’ve seen more stories about some of the problems that people have been having with converter boxes.

      Everything from not enough signal because they don’t live right on top of the tv station to the boxes themselves just plain being crappy, sloppy designs thrown together in a hurry to cash in on the “big switch”.

      This whole thing *could* have been done a lot better. Unfortunately the politicians and lawyers are in charge when it should be tech people with a clue.

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