Lawmaker’s seek answers about DTV Coupon Program

July 11, 2008 by  
Filed under The Big Switch

The U.S. House Commerce Committee and it's telecommunications and Internet panel is asking the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to explain why they did not plan and budget for replacing consumer's expired DTV converter box coupons. The committee lead by Democratic Reps. John D. Dingell (Mich.), chairman of the House Commerce Committee, and Edward J. Markey, Chairman of the panel, have requested that the NTIA project how much it will cost to reissue unused coupons to those who request them. The House and the Senate have been concerned about the planning and progress of the nationwide switch to DTV broadcasting on February 17, 2009. The coupon program is operated by the NTIA, who contracted the administrative activities contracted to IBM.

As noted in an article by Kim Hart in the Washington Post :

About 60 percent of the coupons were not redeemed within 90 days, meaning those funds are to be used for additional coupons. But according to the letter sent to the NTIA, the current contract with IBM does not include administrative funds to process and mail additional coupons.

Many consumers have had difficulty locating coupon eligible converter boxes in local stores as retailers have struggled to keep up with demand. The NTIA has been investigating whether they can issue replacement coupons to those who were unable to use the coupons prior to their expiration, or if Congress will need to change the law that established the terms of the coupon program.