Need a digital TV coupon? Get thee to a wait list

The National Television and Information Administration's fund for subsidizing conversion boxes for next month's digital TV transition has run out of money. Oops!

Caroline McCarthy Former Staff writer, CNET News
Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.
Caroline McCarthy
2 min read

Anybody else sort of see this one coming?

It's a matter of weeks before the U.S. cuts out analog television signals entirely, switching to an all-digital market, but the fund established by the government to provide $40 subsidies to people who need to purchase digital converter boxes is out of money and has established a wait list. More than 100,000 people had already been wait-listed as of Monday, USA Today reported.

So, if you rely on "rabbit ears" and are still in need of that coupon, here's what to do. The application process on the TV converter box Web site is still the same, but now, you'll be put in line for the first-come, first-served waiting list as more funds become available. You'll also be given a reference number, much like a package-tracking number, that you can input into the Web site to check up on the status and check up on your estimated mailing date.

The all-digital transition is set for February 17, which means that more than 70 million analog televisions in the U.S. will be rendered useless unless they have the proper converter boxes to work with their indoor ("rabbit ears") or outdoor antennae. USA Today reported that the Department of Commerce's National Television and Information Administration isn't sure when more funds will be available, and attributed the shortage to a surge in coupon requests late in 2008 that exceeded expectations.

One option for the government is to delay the analog-to-digital transition--again. In the meantime, the Web site recommends some pricier alternatives: buy a converter box without the coupon, buy a digital TV, or subscribe to cable or satellite programming.

Or you could just ditch your TV and just go outside instead. The digital TV transition Web site, however, does not suggest that.