Nobody said the transition to digital broadcasting would be easy. However the process just took a turn for the worse for consumers who waited to apply for the government's $40 converter box coupon.
The Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration announced yesterday that it has hit its funding ceiling. This means consumers will have to wait until coupons that were previously issued hit their 90-day expiration date.
The coupons, of which people can order two per household, were offered as a way to ease the transition into the digital age on Feb. 17. At midnight, the analog TV signal will be shut down. People who are still relying on over-the-air analog broadcast programming will receive nothing but snow once the transition happens.
Congress mandated that the NTIA cannot send out more coupons than it has funding for. As of yesterday it hit its $1.34 billion threshold. The seven million coupons issued are currently running at a 52.5 percent redemption rate.
"We are not out of cash," said NTIA rep Bart Forbes. "We have hit our funding ceiling. There is a big difference. Every week as coupons expire we will reallocate them to people on the list."
As of yesterday there were 103,000 people on the list. Forbes said, "We are administering the program under the mandates set by Congress."