Since the Converter Box Coupon Program began January 1, 2008, more than 19 million coupons have been mailed to U.S. households whose occupants want to continue to watch television on their analog-only sets after the February 18, 2009, digital transition.
Motorhomers who use private mailboxes (PMBs) to receive mail have not been among the coupon recipients. Not directly, at least. The Coupon Program, by federal law, requires applicants to provide a valid U.S. Postal Service (USPS) household mailing address. According to coupon program administrators, applications from PMB users will not be accepted.
Motorhomers who use PMBs and commercial mail services appear to have only one option for receiving coupons: enlist the help of family and friends who have a physical residence to which the USPS delivers.
“We have had a couple of calls from motorhomers, so we’re aware of the situation,” said Bart Forbes, public affairs specialist with the U.S. Department of Commerce. “The solution that we’ve told people is to get a friend, family member, or neighbor to request the coupons. When they receive them, they can give them to you and you can redeem them.”
RVers who use PMBs aren’t the only ones whose coupon applications have been denied by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the bureau of the U.S. Department of Commerce that administers the coupon program.
A substantial number of consumers who use post office boxes for mail receipt also have been turned down. The program rules state that a post office box may be used only for areas where home delivery is not available.
But on April 24, NTIA issued a proposed rulemaking that would amend the current program rules in favor of post office box users. According to the proposed changes, a household with a post office box can apply for and receive coupons if the applicant provides proof of physical residence, such as driver’s license, utility bill, property tax bill, or homeowner’s insurance policy.
Through the consumer appeals process, NTIA had become aware that many applicants have valid reasons for using a post office box. For example, consumers appealing denials said they chose to receive mail at a post office box because they were concerned about the risks of identity theft posed by home-delivered mail.
NTIA also has proposed to waive the “eligible household” and application requirements for individuals residing in nursing homes or other senior care facilities. Each coupon request would be subject to additional information requirements not otherwise applicable to eligible households.
The final rulemaking concerning post office boxes and nursing homes was to be published by early fall, Mr. Forbes said. The public comment period ended June 9, 2008.
Meanwhile, it looks as though motorhome owners who do not meet the physical residence requirement will have to pay full price for digital-to-analog converter boxes unless they have a friend or relative who can apply for the coupon for them.
“We encourage folks to have a family member to call up, use their household, and give you the coupons,” Mr. Forbes said. “We are mandated to send two coupons per household; it doesn’t matter whose name is on the coupon.”
Coupons will be available until March 31, 2009, or until funds allocated for the program run out.
To apply for a coupon, go to www.dtv2009.gov or call the 24-hour Coupon Program hotline, (888) 388-2009. For more coupon updates and information, visit www.ntia.doc.gov.
Cell Phone Restrictions In Washington State
Washington has joined four other states and the District of Columbia in enacting laws prohibiting the use of handheld cell phones while driving. Since July 1, 2008, it has been illegal for drivers in Washington to talk on a cell phone unless they are using a hands-free device. Drivers are exempt in some situations, including emergencies.
A law banning text-messaging while driving in Washington took effect January 1, 2008.
Using a handheld phone while driving in Washington is a secondary offense. This means police must pull drivers over for something else first “” such as speeding or an illegal lane change. Violators could be fined $124.
Washington Governor Chris Gregoire signed the cell phone and text-messaging measures into law in May 2007.
New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, California, and the District of Columbia also restrict motorists to hands-free devices. In these jurisdictions, the laws are all primary enforcement. An officer may ticket a driver for using a handheld cell phone while driving without any other traffic offense taking place.
No U.S. state completely bans all cell phone use, although some states restrict cell phone use by novice drivers.
RV Parking In Fort Worth, Texas
Fort Worth, Texas, city council has approved revisions to an ordinance that bans the parking of large and oversize RVs in front of residentially zoned private property, except on a temporary basis.
According to the ordinance, a large RV is defined as one that is longer than 26 feet but less than 40 feet. An oversize RV is one that exceeds 40 feet in length.
Large and oversize RVs may be parked on residential private property only if they are in a side yard or rear yard and behind a 6-foot screening fence. The vehicles may be parked in a driveway for loading, unloading, or maintenance, but only for up to 72 hours during any seven-day period.
Residents who currently own a large RV (between 26 and 40 feet long) may apply for a nontransferable continuance permit by October 1, 2008. The permit allows continued parking on a driveway if the vehicle is at least 10 feet from the curb or edge of the street. And the vehicle must not create a visual obstruction for drivers or pedestrians.
Violations of the ordinance are considered criminal offenses and carry a fine of up to $500 a day. In addition, offenders’ vehicles could be towed.
City council approved the ordinance revisions in mid-July, following months of study by city staff and several public meetings.