Free digital TV box coupons run out

Wednesday, January 7 2009, 09:54 GMT

By James Welsh

America has handed out the last coupons to be used towards the purchase of a digital terrestrial TV converter box.

Congress had allocated $1.34bn to be distributed as coupons worth $40 each. Every US household is eligible to apply for up to two coupons, with boxes typically retailing at $54.99 for a standard definition model and $179.99 for an HD receiver.

With the coupon allocation now exhausted, households who have not yet applied for one will go on a waiting list if they do so. Should any already-allocated coupons not be redeemed within 90 days of issue, these will be redistributed to those households on the list.

"Households need to consider all of their options and act now to be prepared for the February 17 transition to digital television," said Meredith Attwell Baker, the acting administrator of America's National Telecommunications and Information Administration. "We are working with Congress, the incoming Administration and other stakeholders to ensure everyone is prepared for the transition and no one is left in the dark."

So far, 24m households have requested more than 46m coupons, of which 18m have been redeemed. Out of 14.3m terrestrial-only homes in the US, 12.6m have requested coupons.