NTIA Trims DTV Coupon 'Queue' to 3.4 Million

The National Telecommunications & Information Administration no longer has a DTV-to-analog converter box coupon program waiting list, but the "queue" that remains has been reduced by 800,000 requests.

According to an NTIA spokesman, NTIA has shifted its coupon requests from a waiting list to a moved to a processing queue. That queue for applications for the $40 coupons is down to 3.4 million from the 4.2 million on it when it was still a waiting list last week--before OMB freed up the $650 million from the economic stimulus package to fund more coupons.

NTIA , part of the Commerce Department, is getting those requests out of the queue at the rate of about 400,000 per weekday; applications are not being processed over the weekends. It says it will have the backlog cleared up in two to three weeks.

Although the law changing the DTV hard date and extending the coupon program changes the program to allow anyone with expired coupons to reapply, NTIA is not ready to process any of those requests yet. Any reapplications it receives before it is ready will not be put on a waiting list, or even in a queue, but will be rejected, said NTIA spokesman Bart Forbes.

He warns that even if the rule is published in the date change law is published in the Federal Register this week, that does not mean NTIA is ready to start processing reapplication requests. The NTIA still needs to change the systems to accept reapplications.

That change is still a week or so away. NTIA says it will let everybody know when it is open for reapplication businesses.

Changing the DTV hard date to June 12 from Feb. 17 was driven in large part by the waiting list for coupons, which started building up in early January after NTIA ran into a funding ceiling due to an accounting problem.

John Eggerton

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.