Wal-Mart Store Display for Converters  (Source: Wal-Mart)
Wal-Mart puts cheap digital converter box on store shelves for under $50

While many in the United States know that the transition to digital TV broadcasts will begin in early 2009, there are still some that are oblivious to the transition. The Nielsen Company says it estimates that the transition will affect 13 million households across the country.

To offset the cost of the digital transition for consumers, the U.S. government is offering coupons to help reduce the cost of the convertors for affected households. Without these digital convertor boxes, homes without TVs capable of receiving digital broadcasts that aren’t connected to satellite or cable services will no longer be able to receive programming.

Consumers will be eligible for up to two $40 coupons which can be used towards the purchase price of a converter box. Wal-Mart says that it expects many customers using these coupons to show up in its stores across the country.

Gary Severson, senior vice president of Home Entertainment for Wal-Mart said in a statement, “Due to our many locations, we expect the majority of customers will come to us for making their digital transition plan, both for convenience and price. We've prepared for many months to ensure the coupon process will go smoothly, and will work with suppliers to continue to have available, affordable options in our stores for all customers."

To make the buying process easier Wal-Mart says it set up a new platform at its registers to make using the $40 coupons as easy as using a gift card. The catch with the $40 coupons provided by the government is that the converters at this point all cost more than $40.

Wal-Mart now has one of the cheapest converters around with a Magnavox Digital-to-Analog converter at a price of $49.87. That leaves consumers paying about $10 out of their own pocket to continue to watch over the air programming with old analog only TVs.

Some may find the digital transition happening before the February 17, 2009 deadline in their area. The FCC changed the rules to allow broadcasters to make the digital transition early if it was required for the station to make the transition.

“Then they pop up and say ‘Hello, surprise! Give us your money or we will shut you down!' Screw them. Seriously, screw them. You can quote me on that.” -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng referencing patent trolls
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