June 11, 2008
| by Rachel Cericola
The check may be in the mail, but the converter box coupon? Probably not.
Reuters says that the government has encountered a problem with its widely publicized coupon offer: they are running out of funds for postage.
The government started mailing converter-box coupons in late February. To date, they have received requests for over 16 million coupons.
Each household is eligible for two coupons, which offer consumers a $40 discount on a converter box. This will help analog TV viewers receive digital signals after the February 2009 switch.
The postage problem is coupled with BusinessWeek’s report that many consumers are having a hard time finding converter boxes. There seems to be a shortage at retail stores. Best Buy, Circuit City, RadioShack, Sears, Target and Wal-Mart are just a few of the retailers participating in the program.
The lack of hardware is frustrating consumers—at least the ones that aren’t just letting the coupons expire. While the digital switch may not be happening until next year, the coupons are only valid for 90 days. Only 42 percent of the 840,000 coupons that just expired were actually redeemed. Once a coupon expires, it cannot be replaced. If the government decides to let people reapply, it would cause an even greater dent in the program.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration is currently overseeing the $1.5 billion coupon program.
Over the past 15 years, Rachel Cericola has covered entertainment, web and technology trends. Check her out at www.rachelcericola.com.