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Samoa News About DTV Transition

Raise your hand if you knew the following. None of the residents of American Samoa, some 57,000-plus at last count, qualify, at least technically, for DTV-to-Analog converter box subsidy coupons.

The National Telecommunications & Information Administration, which is handing out the coupons, had to extend a waiver to the entire territory since, according to an NTIA spokesman, American Samoans all have Post Ooffice boxes, which don’t qualify as households when it comes to collecting the coupons (NTIA was concerned about fraud). 

At least NTIA was thinking beyond the continental U.S., which is actually no surprise. The co-chairmen of the powerful Senate Energy & Commerce Committee, which deals with communications issues, are from Hawaii (American Samoa comes under the Post Office’s Hololulu district) and Alaska, respectively, and have been very vocal in pointing out that the program needs to be able to reach hard-to-reach populations.

Even Samoans who get the coupons have another hurdle, however. It turns out that there are no certified converter box retailers on the island as yet, according to an NTIA source. American Samoans interested in the converters–a handful had applied at press time–for now will have to order them online and have them shipped. Fortunately, QVC, which certainly seems to be everywhere, will be taking orders for the boxes. 

Getting the boxes to those Samoans should be no problem, suggests a U.S. Postal Service spokesman. Mail is delivered on muleback to Indian tribes at the bottom of the Grand Canyon and by bucket passed from tug to cargo ships in Detroit.

Irony Department: Where do all those converter box coupon application forms  have to be sent?: A Post Office Box (PO Box 2000, Portland, OR 97208).

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.