Burning through the DTV money

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).

  • Since a safe bet is 1 in 20 coupons did not get used, how does that effect/affect your dollars per coupon.

    Plus the math seems a little off, 40,000,000 Coupons at $40 would seem to be 1.6 billion. I assumed that the households got more than one coupon, that second coupon was for $40 also.

  • Bob Collins

    Yep. $73.50 per household assuming all the coupons were good.

  • Joshua

    I’m sitting with two expired coupons. As well is my brother-in-law. Not exactly sure why they have an expiration date. They expired around the busy holiday season, plus I didn’t have the money to buy the boxes. I think I told myself it will be for the best. The idiot box is on far too much anyways

  • MR

    I had heard initially that the coupons had expiration dates so that the money could be used to send out more coupons. Maybe that’s still the plan, but apparently they were counting on consistent demand for coupons, not a massive surge in demand in December (at about the time that all the stations started really pushing the DTV changeover)

  • Bonnie

    So how many coupons have been used? Other than the administrative printing and mailing costs…the gov’t cost is the 40 per used coupon, right? Why would it cost $ 130 each to produce another 2.5 million? ( 325 million divided by 2.5 million) Not making sense to me.

    And I’m not going to feel sorry for people with expired coupons. If they hadn’t had exp dates, we’d have a fiasco on our hands with everyone rushing out last minute. I, for example, wouldn’t have bought mine in August.

    Yes, what is happening with all the billions for selling off the analog spectrum????

  • JR

    I haven’t watched TV in ten years. It confuses the heck out of the cable company . . . we just do broadband internet, no cable.

    What’s so wrong with getting off of your butt and living your own life? Why is this being treated like the end of the world?

    You can get news and weather from the radio or the web.

  • SCK

    this is somewhat off topic but related to the change over and may fall under “unintended consequences.” I was told that wireless microphones run on analog signals and will no longer work after this change over. Is there any truth to this?

  • Bob Collins

    If you’ve ever had occasion to sit with, say, an elderly person, you know why it’s a big deal.

    And, it’s true you can get news from radio or from the Web but the Web isn’t available to everyone (see above) and when there’s breaking news, people want to see it.