Getting Your Free DTV Coupons

Free $40 coupons from the government towards CECB Digital TV converter boxes Eureka, CA – So, you might be wondering exactly how complicated it is to get these “free” DTV converter box coupons from the U.S. Government. As many of you will know from reading this site, the government will send each household in the United States up to two $40 coupons. Each of the coupons is good towards the purchase of a stand-alone digital to analog (CECB) DTV converter box. You will need one of these boxes if you intend to watch digital TV channels over the air after February 2009 with an older, analog TV set or tuner.

First of all, filling out the online form is easy. There are a minimal number of questions. You can fill out the entire form online at http://www.DTV209.gov . It takes only a few minutes. You can also call their toll-free number at 1-888-DTV-2009. You will be walked through the application status over the telephone. Either way, the application process asks pretty much the same questions, and you will get your coupons just as fast one way as the other.

There are some “catches” with the application process. Considering the fact that this program is administered by the federal government, the whole system runs fairly smoothly though. The biggest “catch” is the fact that if you want to get the coupons in the first place, YOU HAVE TO APPLY FOR THEM! You won’t get them automatically if you fail to apply. There are only a limited number of coupons that are being produced, although the feds won’t tell us the exact number. Either way, availability is on a first-come, first-served basis. Once they are gone, they’re gone.

The second “catch” can be a bit of a pain for many rural Americans. This is rather ironic, since those in rural areas are the ones most directly affected by over the air signal reception of DTV signals. In a nutshell, you will have to give the government a physical “street” mailing address in order to get your coupons mailed to you. You can NOT use a PO Box as a mailing address. You can NOT use a business address to send your coupons to. You can NOT use a service such as Mailboxes, Etc., The UPS Store or other private mailbox provider. You can NOT have the coupons shipped to you overseas or to any domestic address that does not match-up with a (very buggy) database of residential addresses maintained by the U.S. Postal Service. This is a rather unforgiving process, unfortunately. You will need to enter your street address information EXACTLY as it appears in the USPS database, otherwise your application will be rejected. So, what do you do if you live in a remote area and you do not have a “street address” that is serviced by the U.S. Postal Service? At this point, insofar as we can tell, you are just out of luck. Sorry.

The same goes for any legitimate street address that the USPS has “mucked-up” in their database. From previous experience, I can tell you that this database is horribly inaccurate in many cases. For example, the business address that I have used for 10 years to receive postal mail, UPS shipments, FedEx deliveries, freight deliveries, my income tax and voting materials, driver’s license, etc. does not exist at all in the USPS database. Funny, I still get mail there every single day though. Go figure! In cases like this, you may want to try calling their toll-free phone number at 1-888-DTV-2009 instead, since you will not get anywhere with the online application system.

So, you’ve called or filled-out the DTV converter box application online. Now, what? Sit. Wait. Check your mailbox again, and be prepared to wait a bit longer. A very informal survey we did recently indicated that it took approximately 20-30 days for consumers to receive their DTV converter box coupons in the mail. You will eventually receive a standard sized #10 envelope with a couple of pages of information and (usually) two “coupons”. They don’t look like your average coupon though. They look more like credit cards. There is a mag stripe on the back of each plastic card, as well as a serial number on the front. The mailing will most likely come from TV Converter Box Coupon Program, PO Box 2000, Portland, OR 97208-2000.

The first page (see above) contains your name and address, the coupon(s) and a list of local retailers where you can supposedly buy a CECB digital TV converter box. These locations are most likely automatically generated from a database that matches your zip code to that of nearby registered CECB converter box retailers. It is far from a complete list though. The one we received (see above) listed eight locations in Humboldt County where the digital television converters are available. They consisted of SEARS, Radio Shack, K-Mart and Target. We do not have a Best Buy, Circuit City, Wal-Mart or a number of other participating electronics chain stores in our area, or they most likely would have been listed first.

Insert with free DTV-HDTV coupons for digital TV converter boxes The second page (see left) contains some general information about the DTV converter box program. This page also has a list of the most recently approved CECB DTV converter box models that are eligible for the program, although we are guessing that the list will probably be less than 100% up-to-date by the time you get it. Lastly, the insert contains a list of about a dozen or so mail order and online retailers that will accept the coupons and who presumably have the decoders in stock. If you want to read the entire list, see the end of this article for a link to download a digital copy of the insert, which you can print out for yourself.

Lastly, and most importantly!!! If you take away only a single fact to remember from this entire article, it should definitely be to take a close look at the expiration date on each coupon. At most, you will only have 90 days in order to use your $40 DTV converter coupons before they expire. Once they expire, they are absolutely worthless. The government will not give you an extension or re-issue you new coupons. In other words, use them, or lose them! You have 90 days to use the coupons from the day the coupons are printed, NOT from the day that you receive them. As with most bulk mailers, this agency quite likely only sends out their mailings once per week in order to get a bulk discount from the U.S. Postal Service. So, you may find that up to two weeks has been shaved off the 90 days you have to spend the coupons by the time you actually receive them. The government has caught quite a bit of flack over the entire 90 day expiration date issue, but it’s too late for them to make any changes to the program at this point. So, buyer (and taxpayer) beware!

Below are links to graphic copies of the materials you will receive once you register to receive your free government Digital Television (DTV) converters, or CECB boxes. They have been “Photoshopped” to remove certain parts of the serial numbers. Needless to say, you can’t just print these pages out on your inkjet printer and try to pass them off as real coupons. Each DTV converter box coupon has it’s own individual serial number and mag stripe. The information on these pages is for reference and display purposes only.

Free DTV Coupon Insert Page1

Free DTV Coupon Insert Page 2

We will soon publish an updated list of online retailers that can actually process the $40 DTV digital converter box coupons via the Internet. Most online retailers have no way to accept these coupons at present, and most likely never will. A handful of companies have stepped forward to fill this gap, and they are the only ones you should consider buying from online, since you will most likely be overcharged (no discount given) if you try ordering from a merchant that hasn’t made special provisions to deal with these specific coupons.

UPDATE: President Obama and the U.S. Congress officially extended the deadline for broadcasters to switch to DTV to June 12, 2009. You can keep applying for coupons via phone or the Internet until that time. Keep in mind that the extension is basically voluntary, meaning that broadcasters can switch their signals to DTV and STOP broadcasting in analog anytime that they want to. There are very few stations that are waiting until June to make the jump to DTV, due to the high cost associated with simulcasting both digital and analog signals. So, chances are that the only analog broadcasts still remaining in your area are most likely that of translators and low-power (LPTV) stations, which are not required to transition to digital, anyway.

Stay tuned!!!

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10 Responses to “Getting Your Free DTV Coupons”

  1. I RECEIVED MY FREE COUPONS BUT MOVED AND MISSED PLACED THEM. I SINCE HAVE FOUND THEM BUT THEY HAVE EXPIRED WHAT SHOULD I DO?

  2. Due to an error with our mail server, I didn’t see this message until today. Sorry, about that! To answer your question though, at this point there are most likely no more DTV converter coupons to go around. The U.S. Government never really had a “plan” when it came to helping people whose coupons had expired, so contacting them with the same contact information would not help in any event.

    Technically, there is still a “waiting list” you can get on for the free DTV converter coupons. However, there are already 1 million+ people on the list and there will definitely not be enough coupons to go around. The only hope is if Congress allocates more funding for the project, which is highly unlikely.

    Senator/President-elect Obama has told leaders in Congress that he favors postponing the digital television switchover date, but that is unlikely to happen without overwhelming Congressional support.

    However, you CAN get on the waiting list if you wish. You certainly have nothing to lose by registering at http://www.dtv2009.gov. If you have already received coupons in the past, I would suggest using some sort of alternative mailing address, if at all possible. You might be able to use your address at work, that of a relative, friend, etc. As long as they have not registered their address, it should look “new” to the government.

    You might also think of posting a classified ad on someplace like Craigslist.Org seeking an extra coupon. There are still a lot of people out there with extra, unexpired coupons for who do not need them. While I certainly wouldn’t pay anything for one, you might be able to barter for something or just get lucky and score a free one. Again, you really have nothing to lose.

    At this point, it is pretty safe to say that anyone who NEEDS to buy a DTV CECB converter should probably just go out and buy one while they still can. There is likely to be a last-minute rush on the devices before February 17th, so grab one while they are still available.

    Hope this helps!

  3. Erica Velazquez on April 20th, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    Please send to tha above address. I would really appreciate it. Thank You

  4. Erica,

    We don’t have any coupons. You can only (legally) get them from the U.S. Government, and that is only if there are any still left. You can apply by phone at (888) DTV-2009 or go to the government’s official website at https://www.dtv2009.gov.

  5. Are antenna required? Will “rabbit ears” be sufficient?

    I understand none of this stuff?????

    Thanks,

    Confused as Usual

  6. Judith,

    You will definitely need “some” type of antenna. Generally speaking, the cheap-o rabbit ears will no longer work, because the new HD converter boxes require a coaxial cable cable input from the antenna. If you have one of the more expensive amplified VHF/UHF rabbit ear setups with a coaxial cable connection it MAY work when connected to a converter box, but ONLY if you are in an area with a VERY strong TV signal to begin with. If you get fringe reception with your rabbit ears on analog channels now, you are likely to get NO reception on channels that broadcast in digital.

    Unfortunately, the vast majority of TV stations making the switch to digital are using transmitters with lower output power, which adds-up to a weaker signal. To add insult to injury, a large number of them are also “redirecting” their signals, so that coverage may be better in some areas near where you live, but worse in other areas. Where I live, at least one of the TV stations has changed their signal pattern so that it is now weaker where most people actually live, but the signal is much stronger now if you are 10 miles off the coast of the Pacific Ocean! Go figure!!!

    Unless you subscribe to cable or satellite service, your best bet to continue receiving free, over-the-air television is to break down and buy some sort of decent outdoor antenna, which is connected to your HD/HDTV converter box via coaxial cable. You can find some good deals at Radio Shack, when they have sales. Another good source is http://www.solidsignal.com. We have no business relationship with them, other than that we have bought equipment from them in the past with excellent results. You might just give them a call or drop their customer service people an e-mail to ask what type of antenna would be best for your area. There is also a webpage at http://www.antennaweb.org that purports to determine what type of antenna will work best for you, based upon your geographic location. I have found their recommendations to be a bit conservative at times, but it is roughly accurate. If in doubt, always go for the largest antenna that you can afford. When it comes to antennas, bigger is almost always better!

    If you happen to run across an older VHF/UHF outdoor antenna, it may very well work just fine. Contrary to sales hype, there is absolutely NO SUCH THING as a “digital antenna”! Antennas are neither digital nor analog. Just as long as it is capable of picking up VHF/UHF signals and has a coaxial cable output (or an adapter for such, often called a “balun”), any old antenna should work just fine. Just make sure that the connectors are in good shape and make solid, physical connections. Use a wire brush to remove any rust or corrosion near the antenna terminals. You can buy standard RG-6 antenna cable to run between the antenna and converter box at any hardware store, or Radio Shack. It’s the same type used by cable TV and satellite TV installers, and comes in standard lengths that run from 3′ to 150′.

    Hope this helps!

  7. MY COUPON HAS EXPIRED 04/09/09 58 9732518 111=0400 –0418–2 CARDS –THANKS

  8. Unfortunately, once they are expired, they are pretty much worthless, unless they turn into collector’s items someday. With fewer and fewer older TV sets remaining, I’m sure that these boxes will eventually stop being made altogether. Someday, they will definitely be a rare novelty of a transitional age.

  9. i need help , i need help in coupons for get boxes DTV,

    thank you .
    we are appreciated your help.

  10. Unfortunately, the federal government coupon program to receive $40 off of a set-top DTV converter box has been discontinued.

    The original purpose of the program was to prepare the U.S. public for the switch from analog television broadcasts to digital television (DTV) broadcasts. The deadline for local TV channels to complete the switch was in June of 2009. Although the switch was originally scheduled to take place in January of 2009, the Obama administration and Congress decided to delay the switch for several months, due to the fact that the government had exhausted funding for the coupon program, and no more free coupons had been available for some time. The temporary extension (six months) allowed Congress to re-fund the coupon program temporarily, which resulted in hundreds of thousands of additional coupons being distributed to consumers.

    Ironically, most broadcasters ignored the new deadline and switched to digital television (DTV) broadcasts either by, or before, the original January 2009 deadline. So, anyone who did not already have a converter box by that point was already likely to have lost access to many local channels. Why did the broadcasters switch early? It’s simple… Simulcasting both analog and digital signals at the same time cost tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars each month in additional electricity.

    Keep in mind, the majority of the American public actually receives its local television (OTA, or over-the-air) broadcasts via a local cable company or satellite TV provider. These customers are not affected by the switch. Their cable or satellite TV companies provide all of the equipment needed to receive local channels with older, analog TV sets. No set-top box converters are necessary. So, most people never even noticed when signals were changed from analog to digital.

    With the switchover date long past, it is now up to consumers with older, analog-only TV sets to purchase their own set-top converters (formerly CECBs, or Coupon Eligible Converter Boxes) at full-price. They are still available at many electronics dealers, Radio Shack, Amazon.Com and other online retailers. Since electronics manufacturers are no longer allowed to sell non-digital (DTV), analog TV sets any longer, the demand for these boxes will eventually drop to nothing, and they will stop being sold altogether. For that matter, does it really make sense to spend $40 or more on a set-top converter box when you can get a brand new, flat-screen, high-resolution, HDTV-ready TV monitor/receiver for less than $200? That’s what most LCD monitors of up to 27″ in size are selling for these days, and prices are continuing to drop on an almost daily basis. At this point, unless you have a very large investment in your current TV set, it probably does not make much sense to go the digital-to-analog converter route. You will end up with a much, much better picture, more reliable reception, better performance, additional channels and programming availability as well as a smaller electric bill, due to the ability of LCD screens to operate with much lower power consumption levels than older, analog CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) monitors and analog TV tuners. Hope this helps!

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