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FCC Grants $10 Million in Funds for Call Centers in DTV Switch

June 04, 2009

With the mandated conversion of analog broadcast services to digital television just days away, the Federal Communications Commission will reportedly receive additional funds to keep call centers operating to handle the anticipated onslaught of consumer inquiries regarding the switch.
 
According to Broadcast & Cable, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke approved nearly $10 million in additional funds for the FCC (News - Alert). Earlier this week, the commission requested the money to ensure it would have enough operators manning the phones for the June 12 DTV transition date and beyond, the report said. An FCC staffer had said there was only enough money to cover 4,000 operators through June 16.
 
Apparently there is still a need. Call centers were apparently caught off guard on May 21 when 125 broadcasters temporarily stopped their analog transmissions to spur unprepared viewers into action, resulting in a whopping 55,000 inquiries, according to a Nextgov report.

Acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps (News - Alert) said at the FCC's DTV briefing Wednesday that he would rather be over prepared, adding that it was important to have the additional funding, the report said.
 
And with Nielsen Media Research’s estimation that 3.1 million households, or 2.7 percent of the population, are not ready for the digital era, call volumes are expected to be heavy, Nextgov said.
 
"We could go as high as a half-million calls on June 13," Andrew Martin, the FCC's chief information officer, told Nextgov.
 
The shutdown of analog broadcast TV signals was originally slated for Feb. 17, but the date was later delayed to June 12. President Barack Obama urged Congress to postpone the switch saying that too many Americans who rely on analog TV sets to pick up over-the-air channels wouldn't be prepared, TMC (News - Alert) reported.
 
And that held true. More than 28,000 people called 1-888-CALL-FCC on Feb. 17 seeking help getting their TV sets working, according to TMC.
 
Owners of older sets that receive over-the-air signals must buy a converter box, replace their TV with a digital TV, or subscribe to satellite or digital cable service. The government ran out of funding for coupons to subsidize converter boxes earlier this year, TMC said. Officials have estimated that up to 2 million people have sat on a waiting list at one time.
 
The FCC made a final push last month to persuade consumers replace their TVs with digital units, TMC reported. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration received $90 million for DTV outreach and education, which it was ordered to turn over to the FCC, Broadcast & Cable reports.
 



Edited by Amy Tierney

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