Digital TV Converter Box Rebate Announced

The Commerce Department approved a plan Monday that would allow every U.S. household to be eligible for two $40 coupons that could be used towards the purchase of a digital-to-analog converter box beginning in January 2008.

Such boxes will be a requirement for any analog television set to continue receiving signals past February 17, 2009. At that time, all full-power television stations would end analog broadcast transmissions.

Digital television brings with it a clearer picture along with additional programming, and will free up spectrum that would be reassigned to advance wireless services and emergency first responders.

"The transition from analog to digital television is a historic change and brings with it considerable benefits for the American consumer," Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez said in a statement.

Congress has appropriated $990 million to pay for the rebate program, with an option to increase it another $510 million if it is deemed the original amount is not sufficient. If more funding is required, only over-the-air households would be eligible for the second round of coupons.

The coupon would cover just about all of the cost of the box, currently expected to range from $50 to $70 a piece. It will not be permitted to be used for any other purpose other than purchasing the box, the Commerce Department said.

"With the Coupon Program and a successful analog-to-digital transition involving the public, industry and government, the switch from analog to digital television will be completed as planned," said Assistant Secretary for Communication and Information John Kneuer.

Kneuer added that it would be highly unlikely that the deadline date would be delayed again, due to the massive need for the spectrum analog television currently takes up.

Consumers will have the option of either requesting the rebates through the mail, phone, or via the Web. All coupons will include a tracking code to ensure the system is not abused.

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