Of the 317,450 calls to the FCC’s hotline yesterday as stations shut off analog service, the agency said, nearly 30% concerned the operation of digital converter boxes. “This has been more a Y2K than a Bay of Pigs,” said FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein.
The switch to digital by 971 full-power TV stations Friday prompted hundreds of thousands of consumers to call for assistance, but caused no widespread disruption of over-the-air television broadcasts, the FCC reported this morning.
“This has been more a Y2K than a Bay of Pigs,” said FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein during a Saturday afternoon teleconferece. “We still need to search and rescue some viewers still unprepared. Overall, the efforts have been vast, comprehensive and effective.”
Of the 317,450 calls to the FCC’s hotline (1-888-CALL-FCC), the agency said, nearly 30 percent concerned the operation of digital converter boxes.
Most of those calls were resolved by telling viewers to re-scan their converter boxes in order to receive the digital channels that had moved to new frequencies.
More than 20 percent of the calls handled by live agents dealt with reception issues.
Reports from the more than 200 FCC staffers stationed across the country reflected similar concerns. Viewers sought information on the converter box coupon program and raised concerns about reception.
“I am pleased with the way our FCC team responded to the technical challenges that arose throughout the course of the day,” said Acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps.
“But our job is far from over,” Copps added. “This transition is not a one-day affair. We have known about re-scanning and reception issues for some time and have been doing our best to get the word out. We will continue to work with every consumer who needs assistance in making this important and necessary transition.”
The largest volume of calls per TV household among markets registering 1,000 or more calls came from Chicago, followed by the Dallas-Ft. Worth, New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore markets.
Despite the high call volume, average wait time on the help line was 4.6 minutes overall and 1.8 minutes for Spanish-speaking calls. Periodic call spikes slowed response time for limited intervals. Agents on average spent over 8.4 minutes per call.
One of the bugs Adelstein noted were the call wait times yesterday afternoon. The commissioner said he called the hotline to test the system then and waited 20 minutes for a representative.
“This was comparable to people calling into their favorite catalog company on December 23 to order Christmas gifts,” he said.
To reduce the wait time, an additional 1,200 agents were added to the system at 4 p.m. ET, he said.
The FCC’s Media Bureau monitored technical problems reported by broadcasters and granted requests to adjust power and other needed accommodations while fixes were made. Problems included the failure of a shared transmitter in one market that affected four channels. The stations were back on the air in a few hours.
In addition, the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology monitored and analyzed reception problems involving specific stations and markets to identify solutions.
The commission’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau monitored supplies of DTV converter boxes and antennas through industry sources. While anecdotal reports of antenna shortages surfaced, industry officials reported that supplies were adequate in most markets.
The bureaus also worked with the cable and satellite industries to monitor and resolve any problems. Reports included various stations that had initial problems moving digital channels, and instances of satellite providers momentarily losing broadcast station feeds.