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Congress Coupons Help Digitize Old-School TVs


A relic of times past

Beginning Feb. 17, 2009, anyone who obtains programming via over-the-air antennas will no longer receive a picture.

To help encourage the transition to digital sets, the US government is offering $40 coupons to help low-tech TV owners buy special converter boxes, reports MediaBuyerPlanner.

Converter boxes that enable old TVs to receive a picture cost between $50 and $70 and will be available at major electronics stores; viewers with satellite or cable service will not need a converter.

The US Congress, which ordered the transition, set aside $1.5 billion for the coupon program, which will fund 33.5 million coupons.

22 million coupons will go to anyone who requests one. Remaining coupons will go to homes that do not subscribe to a pay-television service.

To sign up for coupons, visit a government website or can call 888-DTV-2009. The government received 277,457 applications for 528,354 coupons yesterday morning, but will accept applications until March 31, 2009 or until the coupons run out, writes CNET.

New televisions purchased after March, 2007, should include a built-in digital tuner. Nielsen estimates 13 percent of the 112.8 million total TV households in the US rely on over-the-air television broadcasts.

The FCC website includes a page on digital TV, including questions and answers about the switchover.

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