DTV coupon backlog seen gone within weeks


Source: Reuters
Author: Kim Dixon

The National Telecommunications Information Administration says consumers should be able to receive new coupons within weeks to help defray the cost of converter boxes for the nationwide switch to digital television signals. With President Barack Obama's signature on the economic stimulus bill, the government can clear its coupon waiting list of some 4 million households within 2 to 3 weeks. The stimulus bill contains tens of millions of dollars needed to restart the coupon program which was a major reason cited by lawmakers and Obama in backing the digital transition delay, which has been years in planning. At $40 apiece for those coupons, NTIA would need $168 million and several weeks to get all those folks off the list. But NTIA will not get access to the money immediately. It will have to wait as much as a week to start clearing the backlog, according to an NTIA spokesperson, because the money has to go through the appropriations process before NTIA can get access to it. "We still need to go through the regular process of going to OMB and getting an account number," said the spokesperson. "I believe it will take a week, or less, after the bill is signed if it goes through the regular process." That would make it mid-March before the list is tidied up, or just about the same time (March 14) that stations that did not pull the plug on or before Feb. 17--there are 641 of those--can start doing so if they have let the FCC and viewers know first.

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