DTV Transition: Oops.

Here’s another lesson learned from the early transition to digital broadcasts in Wilmington, NC last month. According to a recent statement by FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, the NTIA underestimated the number of households that would want rebate coupons by 39%. Extrapolated for the nation, and the NTIA could find that instead of 8.4 million households requesting the $40 coupons, it could rise to as many as 19.3 million. Martin expressed concern that the NTIA might not have sufficient funding for the required number of coupons.

The federal coupons are for digital converter boxes. These devices go between your antenna (rabbit ears or rooftop) and your existing TV with an analog tuner. The converter adds a digital tuner so that you’ll be able to receive the digital television broadcasts when the analog broadcasts cease on February 17, 2009. Note that it does not turn your regular TV in to an HDTV. Viewers with cable or satellite subscriptions do not need to add a converter box.

I remain convinced that we’re headed for a bumpy road come February, with the elderly and the poor most likely to encounter problems with the transition.