DTV Conversion Heats Up

Okay, we’ve got seven weeks to go until the end of (most) analog TV broadcasts in the United States. And Nielsen reported a couple of weeks ago that at least 7 million homes still aren’t ready for the conversion. And that’s just among homes that only get TV over the air; it does not include the millions more that have secondary sets that are not connected to the cable or satellite service used with the main TV in the house.

The government program to provide discount coupons for converter boxes has handed out 44 million coupons so far. Only 18 million of those have been redeemed, however, and it’s not clear how many of the remainder have expired due to their 90-day limitation. And now it appears that Americans are waking up to the situation, and taking action. Coupon requests are up 30% over just a week ago, at which point the delivery time was running at about four weeks. As the demand increases, the wait time can only stretch out further. The NTIA is recommending that you make your request by today in order to get your coupon in time for the transition.

And then there’s the question of whether or not you’ll be able to redeem the coupon five weeks from now. The experience with Wilmington, NC and other communities that converted early indicates that chances are good that stores will be sold out of converters as you get close to the transition date. The problem can only get worse now that we’re staring down the barrel of the national conversion. It will be a challenge — to say the least — of making sure that the inventory distribution matches demand. And this problem is made more difficult by the fact that demand for the boxes is going to drop to something near zero by the end of February; everyone who needs a converter box will probably have one by then. And retailers sure don’t want a big stack of boxes that they’re never going to sell sitting in the warehouse.

And another reason to act now is to find out any surprises before your analog signal goes dark. Will you be among the 2% of households that won’t be able to receive the digital signal with the antenna that works now for your analog signal? Digital signals do not travel as well as analog, because a weak analog signal will produce a snowy picture, but a weak digital signal results in a blank screen. If you need to upgrade your antenna, the time to find that out is before you lose the analog signal.

So if you need a converter box coupon, order it today. You can request one or two coupons for your household at https://www.dtv2009.gov/ or call 1-888-DTV-2009.