TV owners who rely on analog sets for over-the-air programming will get an assist to move into the digital era and avoid losing service.
Starting today, consumers can apply to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to obtain a $40 coupon for the purchase of a digital converter box. Each household can obtain up to two coupons for two boxes, on a first-come, first-served basis.
Digital television holds the promise of providing enhanced programming and increased interactive capabilities for content providers and advertisers.
On February 17, 2009, television broadcast stations are required by law to cease using analog formats and switch to digital.
Consumers who don't want to go through the trouble of adding a converter box have three options: purchase a television with a digital tuner, subscribe to cable or satellite TV service, or permanently disconnect the tube.
Up to 33.5 million coupons will be available under the $1.5 billion federally funded program. Last year, Consumers Union warned that the program would be under funded and intentionally difficult for consumers to use.
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Anna Maria Virzi, ClickZ's executive editor from 2007 until 2012, covered Internet business and technology since 1996. She was on the launch team for Ziff Davis Media's Baseline and also worked at Forbes.com, Web Week, Internet World, and the Connecticut Post.