Wednesday July 9th, 2008

The word is getting out through the public service campaigns of broadcasters, Consumer Electronics Association, Cable Association, non-profits and the government — the transition to digital television is coming.ξ Todd Sedmak is with the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which offers coupons for TV converter boxes.

"For example, in Houston we've received requests for more than 480,000 coupons, and already 105,000 coupons have been redeemed in the Houston area.ξ In Houston and nationwide, the word's getting out.ξ Another example, we've had requests for more than 18 million coupons and four million of those have been redeemed.ξ People can redeem them at stores such as Best Buy, Radio Shack, Circuit City, Wal-Mart and more than 1,900 other brick-and-mortar retailers as well as phone retailers and online."

The coupons are good for 90 days toward the purchase of a converter box.

"Coupons are good for $40 toward purchasing a converter box.ξ Converter box prices vary from $50 to $80, plus sales tax.ξ For a one-time cost of somewhere between $10 to $30, people can experience digital TV today.ξ They don't have to wait until February of 2009.ξ You hook up the converter box through three plugs: one for your antenna, one for the power and one to the TV.ξ And you're getting a clear picture, better sound and more programming choices."

Sedmak says there are many households that haven't yet taken advantage of the converter box coupon program.

"According to Neilsen, 17 percent of television households are not ready yet.ξ And in the Houston Hispanic households, that number is more than 28 percent.ξ So we really encourage the households in Houston to know their options of converting and to act on it, sooner rather than later.ξ If their TV's connected to cable or satellite, that service provider's gonna handle the TV transition for them.ξ So those folks don't need to request the coupon for our converter boxes."

Sedmak says his agency is working hard to make people aware of the February 2009 deadline, when analog television ceases and TV signals go completely digital.

"You know, when we're about 100 days out from the transition, the broadcasters are going to ramp up their public service announcements on television.ξ For people to request our coupons, go to our DTV2009 government website.ξ Talking about reception issues, a really good Web site to go to is Antenna Web.org type in your Zip Code and you can find out the television stations that you'll be able to receive and also antennas that would be good for you to consider purchasing."

More information is available at 1-800-DTV-2009.ξ

Ed Mayberry, KUHF Houston Public Radio News.
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