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Petition: Coupon Program for DTV Antennas?

Let's study impact on small, indoor TV antennas, says Leggett

Electronics technician Nick Leggett, known to Radio World readers as one of the original petitioners for LPFM, is concerned that the government program to provide coupons to those wanting a DTV-converter box goes far enough to help everyone receive television after the digital transition.

Some people still using over-the-air TVs will need coupons for antennas, too or some sort of provision to allow apartment residents who can’t afford cable or satellite TV to still receive over-the-air television, he says.

Remember, two government agencies were given parts of the DTV transition by Congress. At a regulatory session at CES, FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell said that the statute specified that NTIA would be in charge of the converter box coupon program and the FCC “in charge of the rest.” At that time, he said the agency was receiving inquiries from people about whether the government would provide antenna coupons also.

“Rabbit ear antennas will not work well for digital reception for many viewers,” wrote Leggett to the three commissioners and shared with me. “This is going to be a problem for many low-income urban viewers who may have converter boxes and still cannot receive digital transmissions. These people live in small apartments and their landlords do not allow the installation of outdoor antennas.”

In a petition filed this week with the commission, Leggett asks the FCC to initiate a Notice of Inquiry, looking at options such as having the government issue coupons for the purchase of amplified indoor antennas for the poor and the elderly and mandating apartment owners to allow residents to install necessary outdoor antennas at each apartment window. Government requirements for a transmitted signal strength that would allow television viewers to continue to use their rabbit ear antennas with a digital TV or an analog TV equipped with a converter box should also be reviewed, he wrote.

Why is a technical person so involved with radio diving into this issue? The FCC had earlier asked such citizens to help consumers struggling with antenna issues in the DTV transition. Ham groups, for example, are helping citizens understand whether they need a different antenna, or one aimed in a different direction or a higher antenna to receive DTV signals. Leggett is also an Extra Class amateur radio operator.