Julio Ojeda-Zapata’s excellent story in the Pioneer Press noting that the government has run out of coupons for digital TV converters could hit the Twin Cities area particularly hard.
Minnesota is among the lowest participating areas of the country, according to the agency that was handling — and apparently botching — the coupon program. Many people who received coupons, aren’t aware that they have expiration dates, and may now be worthless. (Note: Some places will accept an expired coupon at a fraction of their value.)
Last month, the agency had a conference call with reporters, and mentioned nothing about running out of money and coupons, noting only that people should order their coupons by December 31 to get them in time for the February switchover from analog to digital TV transmission.
Meredith Baker, acting administrator at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), an office of the U.S. Department of Commerce, said the agency had issued 41 million coupons to 24 million households. But only 29 million of the coupons are still good (either already redeemed or still “active”).
Baker is asking for $250 million to $325 million more in government money to provide 2.5 million more coupons.
What’s happening to the analog broadcast spectrum being vacated by TV broadcasters? The government auctioned it off for an estimated $4.8 billion. The money was supposed to be used to ease the federal deficit, although that plan was in dispute.
(This post has been corrected. The original math showed a per household cost to the government rather than a per-coupon cost).