DTV Update: Converter Coupons Running Out

(1/17/08) - UPDATE! The New WBKO digital transmitter will sign on Monday!

UPDATE: January 17th...The new WBKO digital channel 13 transmitter and antenna will be turned on MONDAY, January 19th at 9:00am CT!  Join Chris Allen at 8:57am, just before Regis & Kelly as he throws the switch LIVE!  After 9am Monday, you will need to rescan or autoscan your converter box and DTV tuner in order to find the new digital channel 13.  Do this once and you should never have to do it again.  But don't rescan now...the new transmitter will not be operational until 9am Monday...rescan for channels after that!

Thank you all for your patience...it will be worth the wait!

Chris

There's good news and bad news with this DTV update.

The good news:  we're making great strides in replacing our analog antenna with the new digital mast that will sit atop our tower in Richardsville.  The tower crew returned this week well rested from their holiday break only to be greeted with a couple days of heavy rain, strong winds and snow showers.  However, as I post this article today (Thursday) the weather is cooperating and work is being done.  So far, we're still on track for our projected date of January 14th to have us back up and running with a full-power digital signal at channel 13.  Just hang in there a little longer folks...it will be worth it.

But...there is bad news.

You say you've ordered your $40 converter box coupons weeks ago but they haven't arrived yet?  There might be a reason.

There's talk in Washington of delaying the nationally-mandated switchover date of February 17th by up to four months...and, the $40 converter box coupon program is out of money! 

In my previous DTV posts - and in answering your digital TV questions on AM Kentucky's weekly "Techie Tuesday" segments - I've mentioned that the coupon program has its flaws.  Many of you have mentioned that it was unclear that only two coupons could be issued at any one address.  Some also mentioned the coupon program also didn't make clear you have only 90 days from issuance of the cards to use - or lose them.

Now, the DTV coupon program has apparently run out of funding.

The Consumers Union, a non-profit publisher of "Consumer Reports" has sent a letter to Congress, President Bush and even President-Elect Obama urging them to delay the digital TV transition citing problems with the coupon program.  (Read the related article here)

In the letter, the CU suggests "the governments inability to issue new coupons, on top of concerns about the number of call centers and the amount of assistance to viewers, should prompt a re-examination of the switchover date."

The letter goes on to say that the CU is "concerned that millions of at-risk consumers, including rural, low-income and elderly citizens across the country, could be left with blank television screens..." and "consumers have fewer resources than ever to buy the necessary equipment to regain access to essential news, information and emergency broadcasts."

This plea comes only two days after the NTIA (National Telecommunications and Information Administration) announced it has spent its limit of $1.34 billion to issue the $40 converter box coupons.  By law, it cannot issue new coupons until the cards already issued have expired.  It's either wait on that to happen...or, ask Congress for more funding.

On the other hand, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) released a statement today saying "manufacturers and retailers have ensured ample and widespread DTV converter box availability..." and "as of January 7th (yesterday), only about 19-million coupons had been redeemed out of the more than 33-million coupons available under the program."

The CEA goes on to say that the FCC should not consider delaying the mandatory February 17th date to switch to digital as "any delay...would cause massive confusion among more than 90% of Americans who have already taken the necessary steps to prepare."

So, as usual, you're hearing a little spin from both sides of the story.

In any case, it appears something will need to be done to satisfy those who have yet to receive their coupons.  Keep checking back here and we'll do our best to keep you informed.

But what do you do in the meantime?

If you have recently ordered your DTV coupons, you are most likely on the dreaded waiting list.  It will probably take more than 4-6 weeks to get them now.  A lot depends on what Congress decides to do and when they decide to do it.  If you are among those who've received coupons but let them expire past their usage date...you're not completely out of luck.  While these coupons are treated just as credit cards and cannot be reissued to your address (under any circumstances), you are allowed to ask a friend or family member if they might have an extra coupon they didn't use.  Ask your co-workers or folks you go to church with.  The coupons are transferrable...you just cannot sell them!

Also, if you ordered only one DTV coupon instead of two, you are allowed to order the other card you didn't request.  All you do is go back to the DTV coupon website and ask for it.  But again...you can only do this if you received only one coupon instead of the standard two that were widely issued.

We've heard there are a couple of rinkydink websites out there trying to "sell" converter box coupons.  Don't fall for this scam!  They'll take your money and leave you without valid coupons.  Only the sanctioned DTV program, through the NTIA and FCC, is authorized to issue the $40 converter box coupon cards. This is why we don't have the cards..nor are we authorized to issue them from the station.

I know this adds to the confusion and frustration many of you already have with not being able to pick up our signal on a regular basis.  You've taken the time and spent your hard-earned money to hook up the converter boxes and followed all the directions...and you still can't watch TV like you used to.  The issues the federal government has in executing this program, we cannot help.  However, the temporary problem with the loss of our signal will be rectified in a few days.  And when the work is completed, you'll see...and hear why it was worth the wait.  It will be the sharpest picture and the clearest sound you've ever experienced from WBKO.

Again, we thank you for your patience and for being loyal viewers of Hometown Television!

Chris

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