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If Necessary, NTIA Will Prioritize Analog-Only Coupon Requests

The National Telecommunications & Information Administration will put analog-only households at the head of the line for DTV-to-analog converter box coupons if a crush for coupons creates a bottleneck similar to the one experienced since early January.

That is according to a spokesman for NTIA, who told B&C that acting NTIA head Anna Gomez "has directed the TV converter box coupon program to develop a mechanism to give priority to over-the-air households going forward if NTIA faces another waiting list situation."

The spokesman said that unless there is a waiting list, there is no need to prioritize the list since the requests from all households can be processed within 5-8 business days. "Once we get access to the funds [which should be within the next few days] everyone gets processed," said spokesman Bart Forbes.

Wednesday, top Republicans on the House Energy & Commerce Committee wrote Gomez asking NTIA to put analog-only homes at the front of the list.

As written, the law moving the DTV hard date from Feb. 17 to June 12 allows anyone whose coupons has expired to re-apply.

Currently, there are more than 4 million applications on NTIA's waiting list, which it will take two or three weeks to clear up once the $650 million in funding from the economic stimulus package becomes available, which was estimated at about a week from the President's Feb. 17 signing of the bill.

NITA was preparing a response to the letter-from Reps. Joe Barton (R-TX) and Cliff Stearns (R-FL) at press time, said Forbes, though Gomez' directive to staff sounds like what the legislators wanted to hear.

Web hit tracker Hitwise recently reported that NTIA's coupon box program Web site had received more hits than any other government or industry DTV information site.