The trade group takes issue with the NTIA proposal that would restrict $40 coupons for digital upgrade of analog TV sets to households that do not subscribe to cable or satellite. Cable and satellite homes with unwired second sets should also be eligible, it says.
The NAB today criticized a government proposal that would restrict eligibility for coupons toward the purchase of digital converters for analog TV sets to households that do not subscribe to either cable or satellite TV—that is, to households that rely only on over-the-air TV.
NAB Vice President Dennis Wharton said the proposed restriction is too narrow. The coupons should also be available to households that subscribe to cable or satellite, but that have “second or third setsÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â that are not hooked up to the multichannel services.
“We would hope that no broadcast-only TV sets are forced to go dark during this transition,ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â he said.
The coupon program stems from Congress’s mandate that TV stations turn off their analog signals on Feb. 18, 2009, and broadcast only digital signals. That move would make millions of conventional analog TV sets obsolete unless they are hooked up to cable/satellite set-top boxes or low-cost D-to-A converters that receive digital signals and convert them to analog.
According to the NAB, the government has calculated that that there are 73 million “broadcast-only” analog TV sets currently in use in the United States, 45 million of which are exclusively in “broadcast-only” homes. Another 28 million broadcast-only TV sets are in homes that subscribe to cable and satellite.
To mitigate the obsolescence of analog sets, Congress allocated up to $1.5 billion to subsidize the purchase of D-to-A converters, and charged the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration to administer the program.
Earlier today, in accordance with the law, NTIA proposed that the subsidies take the form of $40 coupons, that each household would be limited to two coupons and that two coupons could not be used in combination for a signal converter. Only one coupon per converter, the NTIA said.
But in an area where it did not receive specific guidance from Congress, NTIA proposed that the coupons be available only in the broadcast-only households. “In other words, households that receive cable or satellite television service would not be eligible even if they have one or more analog-only television receivers not connected to such service,ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â it said.
NTIA asked for public comment on household eligibility as well as on the application process, coupon expiration, manufacturing standards for the converter boxes and a coupon distribution system that will avoid waste, fraud and abuse.