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NTIA Confirms It Is Processing Coupons

Confirming B&C's Wednesday report, Bernadette McGuire-Rivera, who administers the National Telecommunications & Information Administration's DTV converter box coupon program, said that NTIA now has access to the $650 million in converter box coupon money.

That came in testimony at an FCC public meeting on the DTV transition.

She said that at about 2 million coupons per week, it will take 2.5 weeks to clear out the waiting list.

But she also said it will take a week or so before NTIA can start filling requests for reapplication for expired coupons, which the DTV date-change move bill allows for. She said NTIA expected perhaps half of the 16 million coupons that have expired to be reapplied for.

McGuire-Rivera said that NTIA would start reaching out aggressively to the 5 million homes she said were still "totally unready" for the transition, meaning they only have analog over-the-air service and no converter box, saying that would be a change from the way NTIA had dealt with that special population over the past 15 months.

She said the new approach to those would be "search and rescue." NTIA has started conducting focus groups with to figure out why they were not prepared for the transition, and was working with Nielsen to drill down into that group as well.

McGuire-Rivera said that coupons would be fast-tracked via First Class mail immediately, and it was looking for ways beyond the Postal Service to get it out faster.

She said there would be no need to prioritize analog-only households above multichannel households in sending out the coupons, saying the coupons could all be handled as they came in, in part because NTIA had expanded the number of banks that were handling the coupon accounts (the coupons are akin to bank cards).