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Digital TV Coupon Program Under Way Again 147

Posted by Soulskill
from the flushing-money-down-a-digital-toilet dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from CNet: "Federal regulators said Thursday they are going into 'search and rescue' mode to help the millions of consumers unprepared for the phased transition to digital television, which culminates with the June 12 transition deadline. The millions of consumers waiting for coupons for digital converter box coupons will finally receive them within the next two and a half weeks, thanks to emergency funding for the coupon program provided in the stimulus package, said Bernadette McGuire-Rivera, an administrator for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. The NTIA is also ratcheting up its outreach to consumers most likely to be unprepared for the transition... FCC commissioners said their agency is also intensifying its outreach, but they acknowledged that while one third of television stations have already dropped their analog signals, the hardest part is yet to come." We previously discussed the DTV coupon program when it ran out of money in January. The $650 million from the stimulus packages adds to the $1.3 billion that's already been spent.
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Digital TV Coupon Program Under Way Again

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  • Spend more money to make more money, right?
    • by Bobnova (1435535)
      That's totally on topic. They're spending money on coupons to make money selling off the freed up frequencies.
      • by Slumdog (1460213)

        That's totally on topic...

        Whats the topic?!!!

      • by donaldm (919619)

        That's totally on topic. They're spending money on coupons to make money selling off the freed up frequencies.

        I doubt it, although to be fair you need to calculate the cost of the whole exercise compared to the money the government gets back through the sale of the freed up frequency spectrum. Call me pessimistic if you like but it looks like a politician's smoke and mirrors exercise.

  • by Skapare (16644) on Friday March 06, 2009 @09:18PM (#27100797) Homepage

    So what happens with people that ended up paying full price for a converter because the coupons stopped flowing and 1/3 of the transition (which in many places was nearly a full transition) already happened? Can they just get $40 back with the coupon and their original paid-full-price receipt? Even if they got their full price converter at Circuit City?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      If they had no problem buying it with their own money, why should they get a handout?

      Then again, I'm a crazy liberal who thinks that the government should give to the poor, not the rich.

      • by PachmanP (881352) on Friday March 06, 2009 @09:40PM (#27101037)

        If they had no problem buying it with their own money, why should they get a handout?

        Then again, I'm a crazy liberal who thinks that the government should give to the poor, not the rich.

        Well I'm a crazy [insert whatever] who wants to know why the hell we're giving handouts for TV for anybody! Nobody will die without American Idol.

        • by Sporkinum (655143) on Friday March 06, 2009 @09:48PM (#27101117)

          Bread and Circuses..
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bread_and_circuses [wikipedia.org]

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by YenTheFirst (1056960)
          But people will die without tornado information, among other things. Yes, radio is an option. When dealing with people, however, sometimes a graphical representation is just much more useful.
          • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

            by jlarocco (851450)

            But people will die without tornado information, among other things.

            If the actual people involved don't value their lives enough to buy a TV for tornado reports, I certainly don't value their life enough to buy a TV for them. Let them die for all I care.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by m.ducharme (1082683)

              but you didn't buy a tv for them, they bought their own tv's. You bought them (a tiny fraction of) a tv converter box.

              • by jlarocco (851450)

                Well that just make's his claim that much more dubious. Assuming the people in question were already able to buy a TV, and most of a converter box, I don't see why they can't just bite the bullet and pay for the remaining tiny fraction of the conveter box.

                • by pcmanjon (735165)

                  >Well that just make's his claim that much more dubious. Assuming the people in question were already able to buy a TV, and most of a converter box, I don't see why they can't just bite the bullet and pay for the remaining tiny fraction of the conveter box.

                  Because after paying for a 60 inch plasma, most of the cost of the converter box, and the months electric; they're broke!

            • by pizzach (1011925)
              This is a really odd thread here. The parent's parent said:

              But people will die without tornado information, among other things. Yes, radio is an option. When dealing with people, however, sometimes a graphical representation is just much more useful.

              The people who use a TV will likely try to get a converter box immediately when they notice notice they aren't getting any channels regardless of the rebate program. The people who don't care enough to get converter box likely don't need a visual representation, would have never seen the broadcast on TV anyway...and nothing really has changed. The parent poster said:

              If the actual people involved don't value their lives enough to buy a TV for tornado reports, I certainly don't value their life enough to buy a TV for them. Let them die for all I care.

              Like I said above, nothing has changed. You think you made an intelligent retort

            • You don't need information from a 'tv' when that siren sounds get in your tub, nuff said.
          • by rubycodez (864176)

            pfft, most who die during a tornado will have died anyway, with or without a converter box, with or without a helpful pamphlet on tornado safety, and with or without the care and concern of a bleeding heart hand-wringer. That converter box isn't going to hold your walls and roof up.

          • by donaldm (919619)

            But people will die without tornado information, among other things. Yes, radio is an option. When dealing with people, however, sometimes a graphical representation is just much more useful.

            There are not many states were tornado's occur. From what I have seen not being an American there are tornado warning systems set up in all towns and cities where there is a possibility of a tornado.

            What about the hearing impaired? Well you could argue that TV can help but lets be honest here how many people, hearing impaired or not remained glued to their TV in the off chance they may be warned of a pending disaster, most watch TV for entertainment. As for graphical representations most people don't know

        • by cptdondo (59460)

          But TV is the opiate for the masses! How can you govern an intelligent, reasoning populace? You can't give them drugs, so you give them free coupons for TV!

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by maxume (22995)

          To reclaim the spectrum (the fcc auctioned off access to the reclaimed spectrum for more than the converter box program spent).

          Broadcast stations got much of that spectrum for a song, but it isn't particularly ridiculous that some of the funds were spent on mitigating the impact of the switch.

          • by n7ytd (230708)

            To reclaim the spectrum (the FCC auctioned off access to the reclaimed spectrum for more than the converter box program spent).

            This is the part I don't understand: if the FCC made all this money off the auction, why did the coupon program run out of money until an "emergency" infusion of cash from stimulus funds? Shouldn't the the accepted auction prices been high enough to at least cover the cost of freeing up the spectrum being auctioned? This smells fishy...

        • Well I'm a crazy [insert whatever] who wants to know why the hell we're giving handouts for TV for anybody! Nobody will die without American Idol.

          They're doing it because they want the ability to revoke playback of recordings. It's necessary for the proper functioning of the Ministry of Truth.

          Did you see the news the other night? Army kicking in peoples doors and stuff... that can't be real. That newscaster looked a bit freaked out when it was aired. Scared even. You didn't see it? Check it out,
        • Well I'm a crazy [insert whatever] who wants to know why the hell we're giving handouts for TV for anybody! Nobody will die without American Idol.

          It's not a handout. It's a (partial) reimbursement from the government to the previous users of the bandwidth for seizing the bandwidth and selling it for billions, which went into the treasury.

          The analog television system worked just fine for what it did. A LOT of people bought equipment in the good faith expectation that it would continue to be usable for the

      • by Skapare (16644) on Friday March 06, 2009 @09:55PM (#27101167) Homepage

        The issue isn't about whether someone can get the money to pay for it. The issue is that the government is making a lot of money selling the spectrum, and part of it was to compensate people for the costs imposed on them.

        • The issue isn't about whether someone can get the money to pay for it. The issue is that the government is making a lot of money selling the spectrum, and part of it was to compensate people for the costs imposed on them.

          Who will immediately re-compensate the wireless providers who purchased that spectrum by paying higher prices. It's not like we're getting anything for free, you know.

        • by kenh (9056)

          We're talkiing about $2 Billion so far ($1.3 Billion for the first program, $650 Million now) - exactly how much did we get from the sale of the spectrum and didn't we already spend it elsewhere? I can't believe someone in Washington left $650 Million dollars lying on the table after they auctioned off the specturm...

          That's not the Washington I knew!

        • by Rich0 (548339)

          Of course, if you give everybody a $40 coupon (or whatever) they end up just paying $50 more in taxes or their grandkids get the equivalent in debt. It isn't like "the government" has no relationship to the people who live and breathe within the country. As an added bonus you get to pay a premium on the cost of the converter which is able to be sold for a higher cost since consumers will be willing to pay more on top of their subsidies.

          Sure, the money might "come from" the spectrum sales, but that is just

      • by brian0918 (638904)
        The government should give to noone. The government's only proper role is to uphold and protect individual rights. If you want to donate to worthy causes, feel free to do so, and to encourage your friends and family to, but don't force us all to pay for your pet program because you feel pity for the world and think you know how to solve everything.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 07, 2009 @01:20AM (#27102365)

          LIBERTARIANS:

          LISTEN CAREFULLY: The government made a NET GAIN on this transition.

          They sold the spectrum reclaimed from analogue broadcasts for much more than this coupon program costs. It's not donating taxpayer money for TVs, it's compensating people for re-selling THEIR assets (radio spectrum) to private companies, something the government should be doing more often IMHO. And before anyone jumps up and down about how "people should be allowed to broadcast on any channel they choose", realise that no radio communication would work if that were the case - everyone would broadcast over everyone else, no-one would receive the signal they want, and it would be anarchy. There needs to be some authorisation for maintaining radio signals, and as bad as they are, the government are the only ones capable and willing (private enterprises don't have authority over one another, and no market force compels them to maintain the spectrum in the interests of the people).

          Libertarians with mod points, moderate this post to oblivion if you want.

      • by mpe (36238)
        If they had no problem buying it with their own money, why should they get a handout?

        It's probably the companies who sell and make the boxes who are getting the biggest handouts. Since it's likely that the coupon value represents the lowest selling price. Even if it were possible to make a profit with a cheaper price.
    • Just as an anecdotal data point, I requested coupons the day after the last /. article about their running out. I got them in the mail last week. I'm guessing you were asking rhetorically, but just in case; folks who couldn't wait are boned.
      • by Skapare (16644)

        Lots of people had to hurry up and buy right before Feb 17. If the coupons had been flowing as they should have been, they would have gotten their coupons and saved $40 on the converter. They still need to get their share of the money paid for the TV spectrum some other way.

  • Is it spent yet? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pavon (30274) on Friday March 06, 2009 @09:18PM (#27100803)

    That $1.3 billion is the amount that has been allocated to be spent. Last I read, less than half of that had actually been spent and the rest was tied up in coupons that had been requested but had neither been used, nor expired yet.

  • Tv went blank. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nurb432 (527695) on Friday March 06, 2009 @09:31PM (#27100941) Homepage Journal

    And nothing of value was lost.

    • by Korbeau (913903)

      What about the gone-on-DVD series you rip off BitTorrent?

      • by nurb432 (527695)

        "off bit-torrent" thats a good way to propagate false assumptions that the only thing its used for is copyright infringement.

  • Federal regulators said Thursday they are going into 'search and rescue' mode to help the millions of consumers unprepared for the phased transition to digital television, which culminates with the June 12 transition deadline.

    "Millions" of unprepared consumers? Seriously, the commercials warning about the transition have been playing several times an hour every day for the past 6 months or more (I was even getting them on Satellite TV, which is immune to the change) It's literally been impossible to avoi

    • by jshackney (99735)

      What's funny... I really haven't watched much OTA television since my kids were born. Maybe about two hours a week just capturing snippets of the news--but mostly Sesame Street. So, you could make a good argument that I DO live in a cave and I knew about this transition years ago when it was first proposed. I even vowed not to purchase a new television until after the transition occurred. I've since changed my mind on that, I'm keeping the TV and getting the converter. How could anyone be caught off-guard

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 06, 2009 @10:04PM (#27101237)

    Send taxpayer money to Chinese manufacturers of converter boxes; to accommodate the bandwidth auctions to major US telecom companies: who intend to soak customers to get their money back?

    Am I missing something???

  • hurry it up, dude (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cashman73 (855518) on Friday March 06, 2009 @10:05PM (#27101243) Journal
    So, let's just get the effing show on the effing road, dudes,... I bought my DTV converter, with coupons, over a year ago, and still get a crappy signal because 5% of the numb-nuts put it off until the last minute,... So all the DTV stations around here only broadcast signals at 25% power. So hurry the frak up so the rest of us get a decent DTV signal!
  • Cable outage (Score:4, Informative)

    by Skapare (16644) on Friday March 06, 2009 @10:06PM (#27101247) Homepage

    About 3 weeks ago, power was lost due to a storm. On the 2nd day of no power, I ran an extension cable from the TV to the my big UPS that still had energy remaining because I shut down the computers soon after the power went out (knowing it would be a while before it came back on). Nothing was coming through via Comcast. That could be because their lines were damaged in the storm, or their equipment was without power. I could get TV over the air from 2 stations, one in analog (which isn't anymore), and one in digital (because I could power my digital tuner from the UPS). People who have cable and no fallback means to receive TV in the event of a storm or accident that takes out the cable wiring or equipment is ... unprepared.

    • Yes (Score:5, Interesting)

      by localroger (258128) on Friday March 06, 2009 @10:25PM (#27101365) Homepage
      At first I wasn't going to get a converter, because I am allergic to paying money for the privilege of watching commercials. But this is one of the reasons I relented.

      I have to say I am surprised at the result. Even 60 miles from the transmitters with a modest antenna that gave me a very snowy signal on analog, I have twice as many channels and they are razor sharp. There have been a few transient artifacts but not the hopeless pile of random polygons I feared because of my marginal signal strength. I was very afraid the damn thing wouldn't work at all out here and I'd be stuck for the difference between the true cost and the coupon.

      • by tonsofpcs (687961)
        Have you tested that this works when there is a storm system between you and the transmitters? Signal loss is much higher in saturated air (think rain) than unsaturated air.
    • Does the word "radio" ring a bell?

      • by Kabuthunk (972557)

        Probably not. To me it seems like the "coupon-defending" crowd is leaving heavily on the notion of "it's impossible to get enough warning information from a radio". It's been explained time and again that the radio has sufficed for this purpose in the past, and it will suffice in the future.

        I know that when the power goes out here, I don't dick around with the frickin' TV trying to get it power. I pop a 9-volt into my radio and tune it to the usual AM news stations for info. Some people just refuse to c

  • What happens to all those who applied for coupons in the early stage of the program -only to be told by local retailers that there was no stock available- and their coupons expired?
    • by SEE (7681)

      TFA syas that they're planning on making it possible to reapply. The DTV2009 site doesn't seem to have it as an option yet, though.

  • From the summary, "The millions of consumers waiting for coupons for digital converter box coupons will finally receive..." Coupons to get coupons? How long before those run out and we need coupons for coupon coupons? (ad infinitum? Also kind of sad that this typo reflects the actual state of things!!)
  • Whom is the target of this program? Supposedly it is consumers unprepared for the transition, that being those not yet digitally equipped. Why aren't they yet? Given the addictive nature of television, I can't think of a reason other than that they are not addicted. If television addicts are already eqipped for digital TV, and everyone else just doesn't care, who will benefit from the program? Because it doesn't exist for consumers, but for the fear that less consumers may watch TV, it will help neither th
  • Stimulus package (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mattwarden (699984) on Friday March 06, 2009 @10:44PM (#27101489) Homepage

    So, can someone explain what the DTV coupon program's funding has to do with stimulating the economy?

    • by mattack2 (1165421)

      The same way it has anything to do with studying the odor of pig excrement.
      http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1509505/president_obama_addresses_nation_pork_pg6.html?cat=9 [associatedcontent.com]

      • Ever been downwind of a pig factory farm?

        No?

        Then you have no idea what nauseating stench really means.

        Yeah, spend some money to improve quality of life for those who live near one of these places.

        (and to the Libertarian wankers who are even now typing that those offended by odors should move: Please FOAD, now!)

    • One word: Keynes.

      I don't agree with Keynes but the spending - even pork like this - is based on Keynes' theories.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mattwarden (699984)

        Keynesian theory suggests that private sector decisions can be non-optimal. I don't see how a move out of a government-controlled spectrum by a government-sponsored program fits into that.

        I see a lot of crap in this "stimulus package" that is just an excuse to spend money the government thinks needs to be spent for any variety of reasons.

    • It doesn't. It was just put in the stimulus bill for the convenience of it. The DTV coupons have already been paid off via the analog spectrum sale; the issue was that not enough money from the sale had been allocated to the coupon program. So they put an item in the stimulus bill to have more money allocated to it (which at this point, all remaining money had been put in the general fund).

      The fact that this is in the stimulus bill is just a matter of convenience, it's not a stimulus item and it's not inten

  • If there hadn't been so many trailer-trash penny-ante entrepreneurs requesting the coupons and then buying converters with no intention of using them but rather re-selling them on eBay and the like, there would have been plenty of funding to get the converters into the hands of the people who arguably need them. The trailer-trash entrepreneurs were quite probably the early adopters in the program, and the government had no way to guarantee that the converters being purchased with coupons were actually bein

    • Based upon your understanding of what socialism is, is this YOU [skitch.com] in the documentary "Right America"?

      Really, doughy, illiterate and a head full of piercings is no way to go through life, boy!

      • by macraig (621737)

        I think you understand ad hominem quite a bit better than you understand socialism. Thanks for the deep insight.

        • As opposed to YOUR absurd comparison of "socialism" and the current administration?

          Humanoid, please!

          Compared to any of the socialist countries in Europe, the Obama administration is a right wing ultra capitalist regime.

          Frankly, if you think Obama administration is "socialist", I must insist that you cease using the Internet this instant, before you get your stupid all over everything.

          Good day, sir!

          • by macraig (621737)

            You're raucously funny... my original comment contained no mention at all of either "Obama", "administration", or even "government", much less a comparison of any of those to socialism. You've just managed to redefine the acronym TMI: Too Much Inference.

            I don't know which dogmatic partisan high-horse you're riding, but would you kindly go ride it somewhere else and get it the hell out of my flower garden? Thanks much.

    • Get it right.

      Socialists don't raise hens but will gladly share in yours.

      • by macraig (621737)

        You know, it's usually fearful people who dispense that kind of regurgitated FUD and spin. I doubt you're any sort of mastermind with an evil plan, rather just some poor Pavlovian brainwashed minion saying the only thing he knows to say whenever his knee is whacked in a certain way. Of what exactly are you afraid, I wonder?

        The scenario you insinuate isn't really socialism at all, but a perversion of it. It would be a nobler thing to actually study what you've been taught to fear, rather than repeating FU

  • Bread and circus (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kimvette (919543)

    I am SO glad that our leaders are dealing with the important issues. I mean, it's not like we have a shitty economy or horrible foreign relations to worry about lately.

    • by Helmholtz (2715)

      If people quit zoning out on The Biggest Loser and Dancing With The Stars, they may actually start talking to one another. And then, they might start READING too. Before you know it, they may start taking a vested interest in where their money goes and why. That certainly can't be tolerated ... quick, give more funding to fix the Boob Tube!

  • This amount of money could have been used to buy everyone a new HDTV who watched tv over the air... Most people have cable, or satellite.

    This is absolutely absurd to spend this kind of money on something that people should be figuring out on their own.

  • Can they put some of that money into ensuring that the stations broadcast with a usable amount of power? Most of the stations seem to put out enough power for decent reception only in their immediate vicinity - places that are far enough away that the analog signal is only slightly fuzzy (but still entirely watchable) get nothing thanks to the all-or-nothing nature of digital.

    [TMB]

    • Digital signals are on different frequencies (for the moment) than their analog counterparts, and usually at lower power.

      My PBS affiliate is analog and physical channel 13. The digital channel is physically broadcast on channel 61, and at 10% power.

      It never works.

      After February 17^W^WJune 12, the digital channel will be moving back to physical 13 (which propagates better, and antennas like better) and up to full power.

      So, as soon as the transition finally happens, it will work fine. Which is why I was pisse

  • There is no oversight whatsoever to the whole process. They claim my coupon was mailed on 12/29/08; it never made it to my mailbox. After a few weeks I contacted the program's customer support, and I am basically SOL. There is no way they will reissue coupons if they get lost in the mail, nor are you allowed to reapply. There is no way to appeal this decision. There are internet forums full of people saying that their coupons supposedly mailed between november and december never arrived, and got the same re

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