High DTV Demand At FCC Call Center

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The Federal Communications Commission didn't have any call center volume figures available at press time, but those 4,000 operators the agency has standing by apparently already have their hands full.

Three calls to its 1-888-callfcc DTV information hotline at about 2 p.m. -- with hundreds more stations still to pull the analog plug -- produced first an automatic hang-up and then a warning that wait time would be more than five minutes, then simply hold music.

Call center problems were of major concern to FCC commissioner Robert McDowell, who had had trouble with his own spot check of the help line earlier in the transition process.

The FCC received an additional $10 million in funding from the NTIA last week for call centers to help make sure it could handle the volume Friday and the days to follow with an ideal target wait time of a half-minute or so before a real person got on the phone.

Commissioner McDowell had made a personal plea for the funds, saying the call center was the most-effective DTV outreach out there.

In the first call Friday, a computer voice reminded the caller that they needed to re-scan for new channels on their converter boxes, then said that due to high demand it could not connect to an operator. "Goodbye."

In the second instance, it warned that the hold time would be more than five minutes, then put the call on hold with music that recalled the funky jazz of 1970's detective show sound tracks. The third went straight to hold music after the computer advisories about rescanning.