Government Launches TV Converter Box Coupon Website

The U.S. government, in its infinite wisdom, has launched a website that allows you to apply for a “converter box” coupon so that your analog-only TV will work after the digital transition.

We’d love to tell you more about the website, but we can’t get most of it to load, and neither could the reader who told us about it.

We’re also not sure how people without internet access are supposed to apply. If any of you manage to get the website to work, you can post your thoughts about it in the comments. We’re going to stop clicking and go make some coffee.

DTV2009

Comments

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  1. Buran says:

    I’ve been trying to claim my coupon since yesterday and claim my parents’.

    The site wouldn’t process the request and spew just a standard error message yesterday.

    Today, the Firefox throbber just spins endlessly.

    I think their scheme is “save money by refusing to let people actually get a request to go through”.

    Unacceptable.

    The local paper does say you can also call 1-888-388-2009 but I’m hard of hearing, so I don’t want to have to use the phone if there is a written alternative, and isn’t the government required to provide “accessible” services, like the website/phone combo? Except, it’s not accessible if the written-only portion doesn’t work!

  2. fluiddruid says:

    I got it to work with no problems, under Firefox even.

    After submitting, I got the following contact information:

    If you have any questions, you may call the Toll-Free Consumer Support Hotline
    at 1-888-DTV-2009 (1-888-388-2009), 1-877-530-2634 (TTY), or write to us at:

    TV Converter Box Coupon Program
    PO Box 2000
    Portland, OR 97208-2000

  3. mopar_man says:

    It worked fine for me. Apply for the coupon, print out an application verification and you’re done. They said the coupons likely won’t be out until late Feb./early March.

  4. PinkBox says:

    Worked for me. I applied for my parents, who don’t have a computer.

  5. theWolf says:

    This is great news. I’ve been waiting for the day the government would use tax dollars to subsidize TV viewing, predicated on dumb legislation that mandates the quality of the signal received.

  6. Buran says:

    @fluiddruid: What’s your secret? After reading your comment I tried again. Throbber’s spinning again. I also don’t have a TTY, but thanks for the number.

  7. JustAGuy2 says:

    @theWolf:

    Ah, wouldn’t it be nice if you actually knew what you were talking about. The reason for the set top boxes has has nothing to do with picture quality, it’s all about efficient use of scarce wireless spectrum. The gov’t will spend about $1.5BN on set top box subsidies. It will take in about $12-15BN by reselling the now vacant spectrum formally used for analog television. Net profit to the US taxpayer: $10BN plus.

  8. Buran says:

    @fluiddruid: Never mind, got it to work finally.

  9. fluiddruid says:

    No idea what the secret is. I had no problem with the site at all using the current version of Firefox. It was even quick, too… but I’m on a T1.

  10. Buran says:

    @theWolf: This is great news. The government mandates that we move forward into the future and ditch obsolete technology and also acts to ensure that those of us who can’t afford to upgrade what we have can get help to make sure we can use the new technology at minimal cost.

    What do you have against mandating the non-use of old, obsolete technology and also helping people ensure that they don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to deal with the switch? I mean, it’s not like people might need to see emergency information like tornado warnings or evacuation orders or anything…

  11. Buran says:

    @fluiddruid: Yeah, so am I. I guess someone finally kicked the server or something!

  12. Klink says:

    “We’re also not sure how people without internet access are supposed to apply.”
    I figured the phone number in the picture seemed pretty obvious…
    Seems to be loading for me now. Check it out!

  13. scoosdad says:

    Yeah it was down for me with both Firefox and IE when I first tried at around 8 AM yesterday morning, but sometime in the afternoon it started working again and I was able to enter my information.

  14. Dibbler says:

    So I’m guessing that the day after the tuners and government issued coupons hit the streets we’ll see a boatload of digital tuners on Ebay.

  15. CaptainSemantics says:

    @Klink: You beat me to it. White text on a red background is exactly the most eye-popping…

    I had a bit of trouble this morning when I tried to get my coupon, but I think it was just a flooded server. It’s only (in theory) the second day these coupons were available. Although there is no link to the site on the FCC’s page detailing the program. Well, at least there wasn’t one yesterday.

  16. canerican says:

    I’m a small government Conservative with a long Libertarian streak, and I even I don’t see a problem with this.

    This legislation isn’t bad at all, it eventually will move America ahead in technology. We are the most technologically advanced country out there, yet the amount of Americans using the technology that we create is pathetically small.

  17. Lawk Salih says:

    No problems here. It worked just fine!

  18. ncboxer says:

    The bad part is that the coupons expire 90 days from when they issue them to you. So if the first boxes come in March and they issue the coupons to you in March, you have 90 days to buy them. I would prefer that the coupons didn’t expire and I could use it when I needed to. Actually the only way I would buy one is if the coupon price is the same as the converter box price- which they aren’t expected to be at the start. I get cable, so these are useless to me anyway.

  19. lonelymaytagguy says:

    All I can see out of this is converter prices will be $40 and up. Whatever price drops there could be, won’t happen until the coupon program ends.

    Don’t you just love government price fixing?

  20. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    It’s been pointed out at Slashdot, that the coupon expires in 90 days. I’m not sure if it’s 90 days after you receive the coupon, or 90 days after the digital switch. And apparently, only certain converter boxes are eligible for the voucher.

    Also, I have to agree with the “Sad” tag for this story. The government is gonna make a huge amount of money selling off the analog spectrum. The LEAST they can do is provide the converter boxes for free.

  21. RobinK says:

    I used the site Tuesday evening with Firefox and had no problems whatsoever. You were asked a question as to whether you had “paid” TV subscriptions or only antenna and I’m wondering if this affects how the requests will be prioritized. We shall see . . . .

  22. AD8BC says:

    We are all losing the point of why this all happened. It’s not about mandating quality of signal. It’s about freeing up the finite amount of electromagnetic spectrum. Our radio spectrum is full. You cannot create new frequencies when a business or police department or city works department needs to put new two-way radios in their cars… or when people demand non-licensed wireless equipment for their personal use.

    Digital TV signals take up much less space than the analog signals, and provide better quality. By squeezing the TV broadcast signals into a smaller space, it frees up all sorts of radio spectrum for more two-way radio, wireless data, or even more cellphone spectrum. Not all of the freed-up bandwidth will work for cell phone and data, but some of it at the top will.

    The TV broadcasts are an old technology and haven’t changed since TV was invented in the 1930s-1940s. For the most part, a TV built then would work now relatively well (except for the UHF channels, perhaps) and a TV built now would have worked back then. And, in reality, the bandwidth for a TV signal is waaaay inneficient compared to modern digital TV signals.

    Think of it this way for those of you who love your precious CFL light bulbs and love how the government has mandated the end of the Edison incandescents. Yeah, you’re saving energy. Digital TV is nothing but the government doing the same thing, but you are now saving electromagnetic spectrum.

  23. Peeved Guy says:

    I’m really surprised to see so many people require the converter box… Humph. For the time between ditching cable and signing up for DirecTV (about 2 years), I felt as if I was the only person in the US that was receiving broadcast TV… I really don’t remember talking to anyone else that did NOT have a cable/satellite feed.

  24. Buran says:

    @Peeved Guy: I think I read somewhere once that something like 70% of people have cable/satellite. But that’s still 30% of the population that doesn’t. And what about those like my parents, who have cable on most TVs but have a set or two where there’s no cable feed, such as in the kitchen? (there’s a small TV there for the news and the like, or for taking to the basement if the tornado sirens start up).

  25. Propaniac says:

    @Peeved Guy: My parents have cable on their big TVs, but also have a couple of small TVs at their house that aren’t hooked up to cable, in their kitchen and computer room. (I’ve spent the last ten years watching way less cable than my peers because I could only get broadcast stations while on the computer. And now that I’ve moved out I still constantly forget that I’m not limited to the networks.)

  26. GarretN says:

    They must not have expected this kind of demand for their site.

    My wife just happened to show me an article saying this site would start offering these coupons on 1/1, and it just happened to be early morning hours of 1/1 at the time with me at the computer.

    I logged in and applied for my coupon with no problems at all, site loaded fine. I imagine I hit it before the rush.

  27. Peeved Guy says:

    @Buran:
    @Propaniac:

    Ah… I hadn’t considered the old “spare room/kitchen TV” angle.

    Still, the 30% figure still seems (to me) that it would not make the lawmakers offer a subsidized alternative to cable/satellite.

    I’m happy that it’s being done, however. I was concerned about the switch a few years ago because at the time we didn’t want to pay for cable, so the required expense of a converter or new TV seemed a bit draconian to me.

  28. firesign says:

    site worked fine for me in safari, firefox, and i.e. pretty useless for me as i won’t have any analog tvs anymore by the time this happens.

  29. brendanm14 says:

    seems to be working fine right now….i will get one “just in case” something happens with my cable.

  30. kc2idf says:

    I hit the site this morning; no problems. I wanted to get ahold of a PDF version of the application, so that I could fax it to my father, but the only application on the site was the on-line app. At the same time, the NTIA or FCC (can’t remember which right at the second) had applications on their site, but had the word “SAMPLE” watermarked across them. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?!?

  31. tande04 says:

    @Peeved Guy: Supposedly its closer to 14%.

    The first 22 million vouchers are for any reason, like the spare set. After that you can still get them but my understanding is that you’ll have to show that you only recieve it OTA. It isn’t suposed to be about subsidizing an alternative, it was designed for those few million people out there that can only recieve OTA signals.

  32. AD8BC says:

    @kc2idf DE AD8BC

    Nice to know a fellow ham on here.

    Site worked for me too.

    73

  33. Electroqueen says:

    Signed up, but the site was a bit slow due to the high traffic. Unlike some people, I don’t have cable and don’t need it. In fact I don’t really watch a lot of TV and just about any show is up on BT. So why should I bother?

  34. sommere says:

    “Still, the 30% figure still seems (to me) that it would not make the lawmakers offer a subsidized alternative to cable/satellite.”

    For the 70% of people who can afford to spend $40 a MONTH on cable, the subsidy probably doesn’t make much of a difference.

    It is exactly the 30% of people who choose not to spend that sort of money on TV for whom this switch would be most hurtful.

    I’m sure the conversation went like this:

    Congressman A: We should mandate that everyone switch to DTV in order to speed the switchover, free up spectrum for more innovate uses, and get a boatload of money to use on government projects.
    Congressman B: But what about my poor constituents who can’t afford a new tv?
    Congressman A: Whatever. We’ll give them a free box to convert it and we’ll still make boatloads of money.

    (but later people noted that if we give coupons which make them “free” the manufacturers will set prices at artificially high rates and take the profit for themselves, so they made the coupons for a price they thought would be reasonable.)

  35. Tonguetied says:

    It worked fine for me but now that I learned about the 90 day time limit on the coupons I’m kinda wishing I had held off on submitting my information.

  36. karlmarx says:

    I was able to complete the offer, are the boxes going to be free or not?

    Its a little ambigious on what to expect.

  37. JohnMc says:

    Hmmm. Worked for me just fine.

  38. Rando says:

    Don’t buy any converters until you call your cable company. More than likely you’ll never need one. This is a huge scam

  39. Buran says:

    @kc2idf: You can fill it out for him using his name and address. There’s no verification.

  40. videopainter says:

    It’s not a scam, but what happens if youcan only get your TV from either Cable, or Sat.? I smell a rate hike, like there haven’t been many already.

  41. elisa says:

    I don’t have cable. I don’t watch much tv at all, and what shows I do want to watch, occasionally, can be found online. Therefore, this box program will be great for us!

    Question, though – are any converter boxes actually available? I notice the 90 day thing – will they be out before then?

  42. JustAGuy2 says:

    @randotheking:

    Yeah, definitely a scam. I saw another one just like it: my local auto parts store sells headlight bulbs for 97 Chevy F-150s, even though NOT EVERYONE OWNS A 97 F-150! Total scam. /sarcasm

    It’s like any product: if you don’t need it, don’t buy it.

  43. catnapped says:

    What happens to all the handheld and portable TVs on the market? Are they all now functionally useless (with no alternative)?

  44. esthermofet says:

    Works — but what’s up with that 90-day issue? Great, now I have to go buy one of the early versions to get the discount… or wait another year for the prices to drop.

  45. forgottenpassword says:

    I ordered my coupons early this am. Be warned! Tehy expire 90 days after issued. And they dont tell you this until AFTER you order them (at least over the phone that is)…. so I will have to buy a box in a few months. Sadly…. they are likely to be gigantic.

    So you might want to wait before ordering your coupon…. so that the converter box manufacturers have a chance to slim down the converter box to make it more appealing.

    Sadly…. i will probably have to get one the size of a VCR! :(

  46. MBZ321 says:

    Apparently, even if you have cable TV without a converter, it is supposed to stop working after a certain amount of time (which = a monthly rental on a digital cable box for every TV)

  47. fredmertz says:

    @catnapped: Handhelds and portables are going to be doorstops (or I guess paper weights). The scam here is being perpetrated by the box manufacturers. People expect the boxes to cost $50-$70 while the coupons are valid, with a market price approximately ….. wait for it ….. $40 lower once the coupons expire. The government is lining the pockets of the manufacturers.

  48. forgottenpassword says:

    @fredmertz:

    You can always use one as a monitor for a security camera. Or use them as a monitor for digital cameras (for people who use digital cameras attached to telescopes so they can make sure the picture they are taking is in focus… because most dig. camera’s LCD screens are tiny).

    I have an old casio portable that I love that will prettymuch be useless to me after the switchover. :(

  49. scoosdad says:

    @catnapped: Yup, unless you can hang one of these converter boxes onto it via an external antenna input.

  50. AD8BC says:

    @MBZ321: this is supposed to be up to the individual cable companies. The signals coming over your coax are not subject to the switchover, only broadcast.

    For the immediate future, my inside source at Comcast tells me that they will continue to downconvert the digital broadcasts to analog cable at the head-ends.

  51. Justin42 says:

    While I sort of like the idea, it does bug me in emergency use that the little Casio TV I have (That works incredibly well for its size and age) is pretty much worthless. It’s come in handy a few times during power outages and the like. I’m sure new portable TVs with digital tuners will come out (seems like there’d be a market for a PSP-compatible tuner here somewhere in the US) it’s annoying to have to buy new stuff to replace something that’s working fine.

    Are we allowed to request these even if we answer “most of the TVs in the house use cable”? Like I said, I can see some emergency cases where a box, while not a great solution, may work (like running off an inverter in the car with my portable TV if I can figure out how to rig them together).

  52. tande says:

    @Justin42: Yep, the first batch of them is intended to allow people that have one or two tvs (in the kitchen or what not) that want one for back-up, the spare TV, whatever. Its after that batch (22 million) is gone that only households only recieving a OTA signal will get one.@

    href=”#c3517687″>forgottenpassword: I wouldn’t worry much about the looks of it. There are only a handful of manufactures making them and the ones that qualify for the coupon in the first place aren’t going to be the ones they are going to focus on.

    In short you’re going to get an ugly one the size of a VCR regardless of when you decide to get one.

  53. RvLeshrac says:

    @canerican:

    We are not “the most technologically advanced country.”

    If you want proof, simply look at broadband speeds compared to, say, most of Europe and Asia. And look at broadband coverage.

  54. Scott Steg says:

    I just tried to apply and I got an error for my address because is has “special characters.”

    I live in Los Angeles and lots of people, including me, have residential addresses with 1/2 or 1/4 in the house number.

    This sucks

  55. RvLeshrac says:

    Oh, nifty. Channel reception charts available here:
    [www.tvfool.com]

    My grandmother can get a single digital TV channel at -50dBm, not counting any of the trees between here and the transmitter. Which is a lot.

    All the rest are at -70dBm and below, which means “no signal”.

  56. Buran says:

    @forgottenpassword: The boxes won’t be in stores til then and they aren’t sending the coupons out until about the time the boxes become available.

  57. Buran says:

    @Justin42: Some of those (but not all) do have antenna inputs. Check the manual for yours, although it should be immediately apparent if there’s an input just by looking.

  58. superborty says:

    This is DISGUSTING. Why is the government paying for this garbage?? BUY A NEW TV!!!! They cost next to nothing. Don’t think my tax money should be going towards people hooking up digital in the 4th bedroom. Sham.

  59. quail says:

    @superborty: Ahem, the TV converters will keep useful televisions out of the landfill until they expire naturally. The savings from freeing up the spectrum on top of keeping these TVs out of garbage heaps for awhile more than pays for the cheap converters.

  60. vladthepaler says:

    It just kept saying my session timed out and I should try again, but every time I tried again i got the same message.

  61. topgun says:

    Government subsidised television. What will they think of next. In the meantime I’m paying $600 a month for health care insurance with a $2500 deductible.

  62. MoCo says:

    I ordered one for my congressman, to be sent directly to his home.

  63. trinkagen says:

    Ok lots of things no one is thinking of. The program isn’t for every house in America to run out and get two coupons. But think of this. Does your grandma on SSI have enough money in her budget to run out and buy a $70 box to be able to see the news? And the other thing no one is thinking of is even if you got a new tv for the living room. Did you splurge and buy a tv for the bedroom and every other room. So if the cable goes out or the dish goes out you will have any signal at all. It will be $70 for the box on that day. Also you can apply online or over the phone as above. You can also do it by mail to: PO Box 2000; Portland OR 97208 or by fax 1-877-DTV-4ME2. The app must be submitted by March 31, 2009 and you get the coupon in 2-3 weeks unless you call now then you have to wait until Feb because they are not starting to mail them out until the boxes go onto the market.

  64. CyberSkull says:

    The site is up now. I will try to get a coupon.

  65. CyberSkull says:

    You can apply for 1 or 2 coupons.

  66. OPDave says:

    This whole government-mandated conversion is a fiasco!!!

    First, designing such a massive conversion project of any kind with a single cut-over date guarantees failure!! Successful projects phase-in, phase up, phase down, and then phase out: that is, they do things gradually so that there is opportunity to correct screwups, snafus, and stuff nobody thought of!! With this plan, the design integrity of every digital station in the US, the design integrity of the converter boxes, and things like the antennas and coverage areas will be UNKNOWN until the cut-over day: guaranteeing MASSIVE FAILURE WITH NO PROSPECT OF TIMELY RECOVERY in some, if not all, areas!!!!

    This project should have been slowly implemented over a decade or so. Government greed…not being able to wait for the spectrum… is a poor reason to force certain failure upon a huge number of consumers. A more reasonable plan would be something like “UHF first”, and phased in region-by-region so that problems could be identified and solved before there is an inventory of millions of boxes and tens of millions of TV sets which could require redesign in order to be useful in some areas.

    As an example of the stupid and unnecessary problems caused by rushing this project is the narrow-minded design of the available converter boxes. They all require line-of-sight tuning via a remote and one box per set. How does this work in a house with 9 sets, or in a room which has more than one TV? Why are there no antenna-mounted converters with RF controls? More stupidity will be found on “the day”.

    I predict a huge backlash against the congressional boobs who signed off on this hare-brained, we-know-what’s-best-for-you, big-government scheme.