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NTIA OKs 19 DTV-to-Analog Converter Boxes, 250-Plus Retailers

The National Telecommunications & Information Administration told a 2008 International Consumer Electronics Show audience in Las Vegas Monday that it certified 250 retailers, including QVC, and 19 digital-TV-to-analog converter boxes.

The NTIA Jan. 1 began handing out government-subidized $40 coupons toward the purchase of the boxes -- up to two per household -- and said Monday that it had already received more than 1 million requests for more about 2 million boxes.

QVC, the TV retailer, said it will provide a toll-free number for viewers who want to use the coupons toward the boxes.

Others certified included Best Buy, Circuit City, Kmart, RadioShack, Sam's Club, Sears, Roebuck and Wal-Mart.

The NTIA will begin mailing the coupons Feb. 17, one year out from the DTV-to-analog switch, but some viewers may want to wait depending on whether the anticipated $60 price point for the boxes comes down in the wake of EchoStar Communications' announcement Monday of a $39.99 box.

That box won't widely available until June. Unless someone steps up with a similarly priced box before that, the coupons of the earliest adopters could expire before the cheaper boxes hit most shelves.

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.