Reader Question: Digital TV Conversion Rebates

Q: I cannot find any specific information regarding the government rebates on the purchase of HDTV converter boxes. I read an article that mentioned a $50 rebate would be provided “by the government.” However, there is no mention of a) who in the government b) who is eligible and c) how does one apply? I have recently purchased two HDTV sets and thus I am interested in finding out if I can get a rebate. Can you shed some light on this issue?
Ron P.

A: A lot of people are confused by all this. The rebate — which will be $40 — only applies to converter boxes that you’ll be able to purchase next year to process a digital broadcast signal so that it can be viewed on an existing analog television set (most likely a picture tube set).

Your new TVs are not eligible for any government rebate. The rebate is intended to help the small part of the population who only get their TV over the air (not cable or satellite) and can not or do not choose to replace their television with a new model that includes a digital tuner. The converter boxes will not transform the old TV into an HDTV; it will still be standard resolution, but it will be able to receive digital over-the-air broadcasts.

For more information on the rebate coupon program, check out this site: http://www.ntia.doc.gov/dtvcoupon/index.html. Information on how and where to apply will not be published until after January 1, 2008, but you will be able to find the information there when it’s available. And if you do qualify for a rebate on a converter box, my advice is to wait until the end of 2008 to buy one. By then, competition will likley drive the price down to below $50, so you will practically get the converter for free. [Added 2/22/08: You don’t need to wait! See hdtvprofessor.com/HDTVAlmanac/?p=625 to see why.]

[Modified 1:30 PM: thanks to Aldo Cugnini for pointing out that the coupons are only good for 90 days. So I’ve ammended my advice to simply wait until the end of 2008 to get your coupon and make your purchase.]

Updated information 11/17/08: See hdtvprofessor.com/HDTVAlmanac/?p=818 for a link to a video that will help you set up your converter box!