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Public getting in tune with digital TV mandate

Published: Sat, January 24, 2009 @ 12:10 a.m.

A local electronics retailer said he’s seen an increase in DTV converter box sales.



With the countdown to the digital television transition ticking away, many who own analog televisions have been in the hunt for a last-minute DTV converter box.

Those who are already hooked up to cable or satellite, however, are in the clear.

A manager of a local Radio Shack said though his store has been steady in selling the boxes, he’s seen a spike in the past few weeks because of the looming Feb. 17 deadline.

“In the last two or three weeks there have been more people coming in than prior,” he said. He could not be named because of corporate policy. “I’d say we sell maybe 30 per day — that’s probably up an average of 10 or 12.”

Unlike retailers such as Best Buy and Wal-Mart, where the manager said customers have expressed hardships finding boxes, his store has yet to run out.

“We’ve been able to keep them in stock,” he said. “As a company, we bought more than just about anyone else.”

He said he thinks the reason so many people have waited is mainly due to procrastination.

“Also, maybe some of the older folks were scared to do anything to their TV,” he said.

He said his store hasn’t run into many customers with major issues concerning the switch-over.

“The concern is mostly how to hook the box up, which one to get,” he said. “There are so many different boxes out there, so they don’t know the difference.”

The manager said the DTV boxes sell for $59.99, and sometimes they will go on sale for $54.99.

The federal government is helping people cover the cost by making $40 vouchers available.

His suggestion to those who haven’t purchased a converter box yet would be to first make sure their government coupons are not expired. Those who haven’t applied for the $40 government voucher can apply by clicking here.

Other options are:

• Call the coupon program toll-free 24-hour automated system: 1-888-DTV-2009 (1-888-388-2009).

• Mail a coupon application to: P.O. box 2000, Portland, Ore. 97208-2000.

• Fax a coupon application to 1-877-DTV-4ME2 (1-877-388-4632).

• Deaf or hard-of-hearing callers may dial 1-877-530-2634 (English/TTY) or 1-866-495-1161 (Spanish/TTY)

According to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration Web site, roughly 100,000 people in Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull counties have applied for the converter box coupons. Nationwide, about 26 million households have applied.

Bart Forbes, public affairs specialist for NTIA, said there’s no way to tell how many of those have been redeemed.

He said those who have waited until the last minute to redeem their coupons may have a harder time finding a box, and those who have waited to apply for the coupon may be put on a waiting list.

“It’s about a four- to six-week process to get a box and get it connected,” Forbes said. “I would suggest that the procrastinators may have to go ahead and buy a box at full price.”

He said coupon requests will be fulfilled through March 31 or as long as supplies are available.

Forbes said 187 converter box models have been approved. He said the box will give those with analog televisions more choices of broadcast channels only.

“They’ll have better, clearer picture, and broadcasters will be able to use the signal more efficiently,” Forbes said. “More channels will be in standard definition and also provide a high definition.

One example he provided were PBS affiliates, which are providing three standard definition stations and one high-definition station.

Forbes suggested that those who are already hooked up do what they can to help their friends and family who might not be.

“For those people who are aware and all set, make sure your community is connected through the end of the transition,” he said.


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