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DTV Converter Box Coupon Program Out of Money

In six weeks television's signal will turn digital, which means people who use an antenna or rabbit ears need a converter box.

But a federal program to help people buy those boxes has short circuited.

Like millions of Americans Kristine Higbee doesn't have cable or satellite TV and relies on an antenna.

So, when television goes digital on February 17th she'll need a converter box to see the signal.

The government has been giving people $40 coupons for the boxes but when Kristine applied she was put on a waiting list.

The agency says the program is out of money.

"I guess they just completely miscalculated or were not thinking about how many people were going to get converters," said Higbee.

So far about 18 million coupons have been used to buy the boxes.

But millions more are on a waiting list, waiting for funding to become available.

The head of the FCC hopes Washington lawmakers will give the program more money.

40:07 (SOT-Kevin Martin/FCC Chairman)
"Congress is talking about taking action very quickly, so I would encourage people to continue to apply for the coupon program at this point," says Kevin Martin.

But the process could be after the February deadline.

Even if funding were available, if you apply for a coupon now, it wouldn’t be mailed to you until the end of March.

They suggest that people who still need a converter should try to buy it on their own.

They’re sold at major retail stores.

"They range from 50 to 60 dollars," says Crystal Strout with Best Buy.

However, many are finding that extra cash isn’t always that easy.

“Money is tight and I know it's getting tight for everybody," says Higbee.

If you can't afford the box your picture will go dark come February 17th.

WTVY will make the switch on February 1st.

If you would like to be added to the waiting list, here are your options for applying:

- Apply online at www.DTV2009.gov

- Call the Coupon Program toll-free 24-hour automated system 1-888-DTV-2009 (1-888-388-2009).

- Mail a coupon application to: PO BOX 2000, Portland, OR 97208-2000. Download a Coupon Application at www.dtv2009.gov/docs/coupon_Program_App_en.pdf.

- Fax a coupon application to 1-877-DTV-4ME2 (1-877-388-4632)

- Deaf or hard of hearing callers may dial 1-877-530-2634 (English/TTY) or 1-866-495-1161 (Spanish/TTY). TTY Service is available from 9 AM - 9 PM Eastern Time Monday through Friday.


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