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Dish Unveils Converter Box

Dish Network began selling a digital-TV-to-analog converter box online for $59.99.

The box is a converter that will allow viewers with analog-only TV sets to continue to receive TV signals after the switch to full-power digital broadcasting in February 2009.

Those would include viewers who might get the Dish satellite service but receive their TV-station signals over the air (Dish does not carry local TV stations in every market).

The satellite company's alter ego, EchoStar, drew kudos from Washington for saying that it would sell a coupon-eligible $39.99 version of the converter box (the TR-40), which would be essentially free after redemption of the $40 coupon. But EchoStar and Dish were split into separate companies and the EchoStar-branded box won't be available until "late summer," according to a spokesman for Dish, who said he could not provide an exact date.

“Dish actually had to purchase the converter boxes from EchoStar," a Dish spokeswoman said.

The Dish box currently available is the DTVPal, with the analog pass-through capability that will allow viewers to watch low-power stations and translators, which don't have to switch to digital in February 2009. The DTVPal can be an analog TV's friend for $59.99, or $19.99 with a coupon.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration is handing out the coupons -- two to a household -- toward the purchase of approved boxes. The NTIA certified 97 converter boxes, including Dish's new unit. The NTIA said 27 of those boxes pass through analog signals.

Viewers are redeeming their coupons for boxes to the tune of more than 500,000 per week, according to the latest figures from the NTIA.