MSNBC.com Article: Converter-box program running out of money As many as 8 million households still unprepared for digital TV transition

Posted on January 4, 2009. Filed under: Entertainment, Software & Technology | Tags: , , , |

By Joelle Tessler

updated 2:38 p.m. PT, Fri., Jan. 2, 2009

WASHINGTON – The Feb. 17 transition from analog to digital television broadcasts looms and as many as 8 million households are still unprepared, but the government program that subsidizes crucial TV converter boxes is about to run out of money.

To subsidize the converter boxes, most of which cost between $40 and $80 and can be purchased without coupons, the government has been letting consumers request up to two $40 coupons per home. But any day now, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the arm of the Commerce Department in charge of administering the coupon program, expects to hit a $1.34 billion funding ceiling set by Congress.

At this point, Congress has two options: it could raise the $1.34 billion cap by waiving the accounting rules that require the NTIA to wait for unredeemed coupons to expire before issuing new ones. The NTIA estimates it could distribute up to 56.5 million coupons if those rules are waived.

Or Congress could approve more money for the program. The NTIA estimates it could distribute up to 56.5 million coupons with an additional $250 million in funding, or up to 60 million coupons with another $330 million in funding.

For the complete article click here

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