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Need a DTV-to-Analog Converter-Box Coupon? Ask Sen. Stevens

Add the offices of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) as the latest place where you can get application forms for digital-TV-to-analog converter-box coupons.

Stevens, vice chairman and ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, said Wednesday that he would make the forms available at all of his offices and via his Web site.

Stevens -- whose sprawling and mostly rural state relies heavily on over-the-air TV to bridge those wide-open spaces -- added that "having access to digital converter boxes will be the key to a smooth digital transition."

All full-power TV stations are required to pull the plug on analog broadcasts as of Feb. 17, 2009, and over-the-air-only households with analog sets will need converter boxes to continue to receive TV pictures.

The U.S. government is supplying households up to two $40 coupons apiece to defray the cost of qualified boxes. Most are expected to sell for $50-$70, although EchoStar Communications said it will have a $40 box on the shelves by the end of the next quarter.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which is overseeing the subsidy, began accepting coupon-application forms Jan. 1, which can be obtained at a variety of places, including Post Offices and libraries, then mailed or faxed to the NTIA. Requests for coupons can also be made online or over the phone (1-888-388-2009) without the forms.

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.