Sunday, January 18, 2009

DTV expired coupons?

Did you order your DTV converter box coupon cards early (like me), but they expired (like mine)?
"According to NTIA statistics posted on December 31st the redemption rate of coupons is at 52.5%. DTV Coupons expire after 90 days, based on this 47.5% of all coupons mailed will have their value returned to the funding pool. If you have requested coupons you will be put in queue to receive your coupons when funding has been returned." ("DTV Coupon Availability Limited")

I thought I was being oh-so-efficient by ordering my family's DTV coupon card ahead of the rush last year. Only when they arrived did I discover they did not expire on the well-publicized transition date of 2/17/09--but in NINETY DAYs (July 23, 2008).

Two problems: 1) Stores did not carry converter boxes in my area until Christmas. 2) But worse, and completely unexpected, our area suffered catastrophic devastation during the June flooding of 2008. My home was fine but the historic flood wiped out over 9 square miles of downtown Cedar Rapids, displacing over 26,000 residents and businesses. Our area was absolutely devastated and buying a TV converter box was by far the last thing on our minds. President Bush declared Iowa a disaster area. Seven months later, Dave DeWitte of The Gazette reports that nearly half of the businesses in Cedar Rapids have not come back and are unaccounted for.

After the flood, I spent the next 6 weeks volunteering during the massive recovery efforts. By the time I remembered our DTV coupon cards in August, they were expired. (Not that there were any converter boxes in our area anyway!) I sent an appeal through the DTV website in September but got not response, so I sent a second appeal today–-not that I expect any response now.

As for an expiration date, why didn’t the FCC set these coupon cards to expire on Feb. 17, 2009, the advertised date of transition? Why the 90 days? For those of us who ordered early, there were NO boxes available, no reviews, etc. I see NO reason at all for expiring them after 90 days. Not with a built-in advertised, well-publisized drop-dead date of Feb. 17, 2009.

And for those of us in disaster areas during 2008 and 2009 (Washington state suffered massive flooding this month, just like Iowa) should be given extra time.

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