This notice on the NTIA's sweb site gives details on the DTV converter coupons.
The U.S. government has unveiled a new plan to ease the transition when the nation's TV broadcasters officially flip the switch from analog to digital on February 19, 2009

According to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) plan introduced this week, all U.S. consumers will be eligible for up to an $80 subsidy to pay for analog-to-digital TV converters. Delivered in the form of coupons redeemable at electronics stores, the subsidy is designed to help consumers cope with the change and prevent their old analog TVs from "going dark."

The switchover will primarily affect the minority of U.S. TV viewers that rely on TV antennas and over-the-air (OTA) signals for their broadcast programming. According to the Federal Communications Commission, up to 90 percent of U.S. households currently get their TV signal via a satellite or cable provider. People who receive programming in this way are not likely to notice when broadcasters power down their analog transmitters for good in 2009.

Starting Jan. 1, 2008, all U.S. households will be eligible to request up to two $40 coupons, to be used toward the purchase of up to two digital-to-analog converter boxes. The coupons will be issued until the $990 million initial allocation for the program is exhausted. Once those funds are gone, the Digital Television Transition and Public Safety Act of 2005 then authorizes Congress to increase funding by another $510 million. The second allocation will be available to OTA-only households, however. In other words, consumers will have to certify that they do not subscribe to cable, satellite or other pay television services in order to qualify for the second round of coupons. 

The coupons themselves will resemble retail "gift cards," and will expire three months after they arrive by U.S. mail. They cannot legally be used to purchase anything except a digital-to-analog converter.

One of the government's major goals in establishing the DTV transition plan is to clear the way for opening up vast amounts of broadcast spectrum for advanced wireless communications, including use by military public safety agencies.

"We basically took a look at this situation and said, this is bullshit." -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng's take on patent troll Soverain
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