Iowa Public Television

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Where Did All the Converter Boxes Go?

For the last few weeks I have had a number of people at presentations and online mention that the stores in their area don't have converter boxes in stock at this point. This has caused me to do a little market research on my own and I have discovered that there are many stores that don't have boxes in stock and aren't expecting them to be back in stock until next month. This raises a couple of questions. The first is why. I have asked a number of stores about this and they don't seem to have a good answer. Basically what I hear is that most stores were not expecting the volume of demand that they received. While this may be true, it doesn't explain why they cannot get boxes in until sometime next month. The last I had heard these things were being manufactured in huge quantities. I think the real reason is something that I addressed a few weeks ago. It has to do with most of the converter boxes inability to pass the antenna feed through to the television when the box is not in service, like a video tape recorder does when it is turned off. I know a number of manufacturers are in the process of redesigning and recertifying their boxes to include this feature. The redesign is quite frankly pretty minimal so that shouldn't take much time but there is the process of recertifying the box so that it qualifies for the coupon program. This program is administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and I am not sure what the procedure is for qualifying the converters but I know at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January of this year I saw a number of boxes at various manufacturers displays that were all in the process of qualifying and it was almost three months or more until they started appearing on shelves.

That leads to the even more important question regarding people who have unused coupons that may expire before the boxes are available again. What can those people do? A number of the stores that I spoke with offered the option of preordering the boxes and using the coupons before they expire. The store would process the sale and then contact you when the box is in. Sadly, none of the stores that I was at had a box setup for demonstration so you could see how it worked to determine if this was the one you wanted so you end up buying blind. I sincerely doubt that you would end up buying a box that didn't work but it might not have all the features that you want.

On June 18th, Senator Tom Harkin and a number of others in the Senate sent a letter to the NTIA calling on them to reissue expired coupons. So far, I have not seen any response from NTIA on this. I have also contacted them and asked them what options consumers have and as yet I have not seen a reply. As soon as I do, I will post an update. In the meantime, if you would like to try and use your coupons before they expire, I suggest that you look on-line for vendors that may have boxes in stock.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

We went to several store to redeem our coupons and they were out of the boxes. "Come back next week". We live 70 miles from any big town that would have them and with the price of gas we just don't go back next week. What do we do with our expired coupons? RL

c2s said...

Use it as a ice scrapper. Unless something is cahnged your out of luck.

jcwjr01@mchsi.com said...

Jim Williams Jones Appliance and Tv Iowa Falls, Iowa.

As a retailer we did have a short time period of time that we were out of the pass-thru boxes, but we also had the non pass-thru and have always had a converter box in stock. We have been ordering them as supply has gotten low and so far we have been keeping up with the demand. We also have a display with 2 different boxes attacted to it to show customer the diffrent way it can be hooked up.

Anonymous said...

It's so interesting...at first, we heard that if you have cable, no problem. Now the message is changing: If you want any old signal, you'll get it through your cable connection, but if you want GOOD digital TV, you have to buy the multi-thousand-dollar TV that has it. I knew it from the start. This whole thing is a TV sales gimmick and Congress people are getting contributions to their re-election funds for passing it. Thanks, Congress. And thanks, IPTV, for the incessant racket on this subject. I'm really disappointed in you.

Anonymous said...

I do not think that DTV is a con. Let's face it, technology moves on and TV as we know it has to change.
It is big business we have to watch: they are taking away the TV channels to replace it with cells phones, mobile internet and the like. I hope free TV survices. Malcolm Scringer, Davenport

Anonymous said...

We live in a rural area and the one station (PBS) that we always got through our analog TV is now not available to us anymore. Yes, we got our converter box before our coupon expired but it seems the reception of digital transmission is not as powerful as that of analog. Now we have a box but it is useless. Has anybody else had this problem?

Anonymous said...

We got a tv that receives both analog and digital signal to go along with the converter boxes in other two rooms. We too have found the boxes don't pass very well. The new tv has dropped the digital channels several times but analog still works. Love the extra channels and picture is much better, just wish signal was stronger. thanks for listening. Albia, Iowa

Anonymous said...

From what I have noticed in the rural areas of Henry County / Mount Pleasant in Southeast Iowa, digital signals are weaker than their analog counterpart. This is true for the Quad City stations but even more so for the stations in Cedar Rapids and Quincy, IL. I think some stations will go back to VHF next year with DTV where propagation is better. I just hope their power levels, which will be much lower than what they ran on analog, will be sufficient for solid DTV viewing.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know what Dish Network and DirectTV will do with local channels once the analog shuts off next Feb. Right now those satellite providers gives us just the analog channel - or at least the main digital channel. Will they eventually pass along all the digital channels of a particular station, such as 12.1, 12.2, and 12.3 for KIIN? Right now we just get what's on 12.2, though we also have an antenna so we see all 3 anyway.

daler said...

All corporate RadioShack stores have what is called "Direct to You," a sales tool which enables you to procure a box even if the store runs out of them. You simply use your coupon and pay for the converter box as though you were going to walk out of the store with it, and then FedEx delivers the box to your house in a few days, and you're done.