Coupons for digital TV converter boxes available

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By Congressman Virgil Goode

Beginning February 18, 2009, anyone who does not own a digital television set and still gets programming via over-the-air antennas will no longer be able to receive a picture without a converter box. That is the day that the television industry completes its transition from old style analog broadcasting to digital. Viewers who have cable service or have satellite dish TV reception will not need a converter box.

Recognizing that the $50-to-$70 cost of converter boxes may present a hardship on some Americans; Congress established a program to offer coupons to help defray the cost. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration is now accepting requests for two $40 coupons per household to be used toward the purchase of the boxes. The converter boxes can be purchased at most major electronics retailers.

The first 22 million coupons will go to all households that request them. That includes a residence that gets cable service for one television but has a spare TV that still uses an antenna, for example. The rest of the coupons, however, are meant only for those who do not subscribe to a pay-television service.

To request a coupon, consumers may apply online at http://www.dtv2009.gov. If you would rather request a coupon over the phone, you may call toll-free to the 24-hour hotline, 1-888-DTV-2009 (1-888-388-2009).

Identity theft continues to be a significant problem in the United States. According to a survey released by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), 8.3 million adults, or 3.7 percent of all American adults, were victims of identity theft in 2005. Of the victims, 3.2 million, or 1.4 percent of all adults, experienced misuse of their existing credit card accounts; 3.3 million, or 1.5 percent, experienced misuse of non-credit card accounts; and 1.8 million victims, or 0.8 percent, found that new accounts were opened or other frauds were committed using their personal identifying information.

There are steps that you can take to minimize the likelihood of your being a victim of identity theft. For instance, federal law gives every consumer the right to get their credit report for free once every 12 months from each of the three national credit reporting companies. That can be done through the Internet website, www.annualcreditreport.com. Monitoring your credit report periodically is one valuable way to check for activity that you did not authorize. Also, practical information for consumers, businesses entrusted with consumer data and law enforcers who prosecute crime may be found at www.ftc.gov/idtheft.

On another front, the amount of advertising and marketing claiming that products are environmentally friendly, or "green,"is increasing so rapidly, that the FTC is moving up by one year its review of Green Guides, or environmental marketing guidelines. The guides outline general principles for all environmental marketing claims and provide specifics about certain green claims, such as degradability, compostability, recyclability, recycled content, and ozone safety. The Commission's accelerated review pace is designed to ensure that they reflect today's marketplace.

Please keep in touch with me on issues that are important to you. You may write Congressman Virgil Goode, 70 East Court Street, Room 215, Rocky Mount, VA 24151; or fax to 1-540-484-1459; or call toll-free to the Danville office, 1-800-535-4008.