FCC May Need To Staff Up The Phone Lines To Deal With Digitial TV Transition

from the full-employment-act? dept

There has been plenty of concern over the past year, that the FCC isn’t really prepared for the shift from analog tv signals to digital tv signals that will happen early next year. While the recent switchover test in Wilmington, N.C. didn’t go that badly, the LA Times notes that the FCC still received calls from 797 residents in the city on the first day and 424 more on the second day. While the FCC points out that this is less than one-half of one percent of the 180,000 TV-viewing households the changeover impacted, this still should throw up some warning signs for the big switchover.

First of all, in the test region, the FCC did a much bigger education campaign than has been done nationwide. On top of that, the percentage of households in Wilmington impacted by the change (those who don’t use cable or satellite TV) was only 8%, compared to 12% in the rest of the country. Some quick and dirty math suggests this could mean somewhere just under a million calls to the FCC for the big changeover. While the FCC staffed up to take the calls, you’d have to imagine they’ll have to staff up a lot more to take a million calls over the course of a couple days. Perhaps they can hire all those telemarketers who the telemarketing industry insisted would be put out of work by the “Do Not Call” list…

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Comments on “FCC May Need To Staff Up The Phone Lines To Deal With Digitial TV Transition”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Unintended Consequences

– Earlier this week I bought a converter box. The installation and setup was easy, for an Electrical Engineer anyhow. I have reservations about ordinary people doing installation and setup. The instructions appeared to be oriented to use the least amount of paper possible.
– However, there is a bigger problem, and not just for the FCC. I went from 10 analog channels, of various quality, to 2 digital channels (subtract one for Fox, which I programmed out). There are additional channels, but these channels are too weak to generate a picture. I live in a semi-rural area only 20 miles from a major city.
– I suspect there will be an interesting reaction on the part of the users when they find out how many channels they have lost!
– Also, there may be a reaction on the part of advertising purchasers when they find out that they can’t reach a significant market segment.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Unintended Consequences

I’d hope that an “electrical engineer” would have enough sense to realize a new antenna would be needed to receive the new channels, as they are a completely different frequency and as such have a different wavelength (which is the key aspect of antenna design, after (omni)directionality).

I’m guessing you just hooked up the converter box to your 20 year old rabbit ears like a schmuck and then came on the internet to bitch about how you lost all your programming.

In Columbus Ohio there is NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox, and PBS, and that WB channel, along with a few small, local channels I have never watched a day in my life.

NBC has 2 digital channels, ABC has 1, CBS has 5!, Fox has 1, PBS has 3, WB has 1.

So, analog channels (total, including crappy local ones): 9
Digital channels: 15 with NO local crappy ones, these are all NBC/CBS/ABC/Fox/PBS/Etc.

I have installed home theatre systems over FIFTY miles from these broadcast towers, and picked up the signals PERFECT with a small, outdoor antenna, and would guess 75 miles wouldn’t be too hard with a mast mounted one.

Next time, don’t be a dolt and take the time to hook up an antenna designed for the digital signal AND designed for the distance you are from the source. Figured I needed to add the “distance” part in case you were using some set-top antenna designed to pick up the signal from less than 10 miles (ie, in the city limits).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Unintended Consequences

Channel listing from tv.yahoo.com, fyi:

nbc 4.2 WCMHW WCMH Weather Plus
mnt 6.2 MYTVC MyTV Columbus
cbs 10 WBNS WBNS
cbs 10.2 WBNS2 WBNS2
cbs 10.3 WBNS3 WBNS3
cbs 10.4 WBNS4 WBNS4
cbs 10.5 WBNS5 WBNS5
fox 28 WTTE WTTE
pbs 34 WOSU WOSU
pbs 34.3 WOSUP WOSU.Plus

Agonizing Fury says:

Re: Re: Unintended Consequences

Wow, for someone who just called this guy an idiot you sure are stupid! there is NO difference whatsoever in the frequencies used for digital. They are carried on different frequencies in the exact same bands. It is still VHF/UHF. The only thing that changes is the modulation (digital instead of analog) and power. During the transition, some VHF stations may have their digital channels in the UHF frequency range to avoid interference with analog channels, but a 40 year old “analog” antenna that is in good shape, will be just as effective as a brand new “Digital HDTV” antenna of the same quality would be. Next time don’t be a dolt and start spewing off at the mouth when you have no clue what you are talking about.

Tina says:

Re: Re: Unintended Consequences

I like the electrical engineer that you are bashing in your comments hooked up 3 converter boxes in my home…the first I tried hooking to an outside antenna…the second I hooked up to a 40 year old set of rabbit ears and the third i bought a brand new state of the art amplified digital antenna…and for your information the 40 year old rabbit ears was the that gave me the most channels even though I lost pbs on all of them..

Do not suggest someone is an idiot without trying it yourself

Hulser says:

Worse than Y2K

Personally, I think that the switchover to digital TV is going to be far worse than the Y2K “bug”. With Y2K, people understood it was a big deal and put in the necessary amount of work to avoid almost all of the problems. But the digital TV switchover, it seems like there’s been only a halfhearted attempt to educate people about or plan for the potential problems.

I have this mental image of some elderly person waking up one day and discovering for the first time that they can’t watch TV. You thought computer crashes were bad; just wait until granny can’t watch her stories. All hell’s gonna break loose.

Steve Stone says:

TV converters

Old TV antenna systems (antenna, coax, preamp, rotor, etc) that were good enough and pointed accurately enough to receive analog signals may not do a good enough job receiving a digital signal. Analog channel 7 may be fine but digital channel 7.x might be on the frequency used for UHF 54 on a totally different tower in a different part of town, and 7.x may move back to VHF analog channels 7 location and frequency on Feb. 2009. The broadcaster may even add nulls to digital 7.x to protect a station in a nearby city’s use of an adjoining channel. I’ve found the following website useful..
http://www.tvfool.com . Bottom line. digital is great if you can get it, but seems to be an experiment in progress for quite some time, just like analog TV in the 1940 and 50’s

Annoyed in Oregon says:

Digit Conversion Not Worth $20

I was able to use my coupon a couple of weeks before it expired but there was absolutely no choice involved. Only two retailers offered boxes locally: Radio Shack and Best Buy. I only bought the Best Buy one because the salesperson was moderately helpful there rather than condescending at the other shop.

I hooked the thing up without reading any directions and yes, it was to my old ‘rabbit ears’ style antenna from last century. It seemed to work just fine, so I thought I would be okay. I tape PBS shows for background noise and some for actual viewing. But for some reason, it seems like the channel on the converter box changes, so I spend lots of time double checking that it’s pointing to the right channel – I never had to do that before.

But what really galls me is sometimes the signal is okay (and only drops sound momentarily). But other times, usually when the weather is clear, up to 80% of a show can be lost — no sound and of course the picture is worse than the poorest quality jpeg. I’ve been told “it’s to be expected.”

Since it works fine some times, I doubt a new antenna would help. Maybe we just need better planning laws to keep people from erecting buildings one night that get in the way of the transmission and then tearing them down a couple days later???

I’m baffled why the quality is so damn inconsistent on a single channel. End run is I’m out $20 and get to watch 20% of what I used to — now that sounds like progress to me!

And no, I’m not going to pay even $15/month (Comcast’s cheapest local plan) to get a better signal. But it seems pretty clear to me, they have offered 12% of the population a half-assed solution thinking it will be all that’s needed to get 100% of the American public subscribing to TV via cable and satellite. They won’t really be happy until everyone is paying for TV twice — once for a subscription, and then again when we purchase all those products and services that are so heavily hawked during the shows.

Oliver Wendell Jones (profile) says:

Has your conversion date come to pass?

I work for a small midwestern TV station. We currently broadcast in analog on a 2+ Megawatt transmitter but currently our digital signal is only powered at 7.94 Kilowatt. Why? Well, because the company that owns the company that owns our station hasn’t got around to sending us a “real” digital transmitter and all we have is our “play” digital transmitter to “play” with and get used to digital broadcasting before the (hopefully much) bigger digital transmitter arrives – probably with days to spare before the actual transition date.

Every week we get calls from people complaining that they’ve watched our commercials (that the FCC requires us to play!) telling them to buy a converter box, they’ve done so, and now they can’t hardly pick up a signal and they want to know why. Truth is, we’re probably not the only station in this same situation.

Don’t freak out if you don’t get as many channels *now* – if after February 17, 2009 you still don’t get as many channels, then feel free to freak out.

Also, if you buy a converter box (and they’re only about $10 if you use the free coupons provided by our government) be sure to get one with “analog passthrough” or when you hook it up prior to 2/17/09 you’ll find that you can’t pick up any analog TV because the box blocks it (that accounts for about 1/4 of the phone calls we get each week).

Anonymous Coward says:


There appears to be some confusion on the issue of antennas for digital TV. There are several points that need be considered.

First, the TV bands have not changed. How the TV bands are being used has changed, but not the frequency limits themselves. TV, digital or analog, is still in the VHF and UHF TV bands.

Therefore, if you have an outdoor VHF/UHF TV antenna, then your antenna is fine. You may need to clean up the connections or replace older cable. Antenna and cable do deteriorate over time, particularly outside. If the antenna is very old, it may be worth considering a new one. Also, you can add a TV band amplifier to improve you signals. Add the amplifier as close to the antenna as possible. An amplifier at the TV helps the least.

Next, if you have an outdoor VHF only antenna, the least expensive variety, you will likely need to replace it with a VHF/UHF antenna. Otherwise, you will lose channels. Again, an amplifier at the antenna can help.

Third, if you antenna is an indoor antenna, rabbit ears or the like, you may have problems. Some indoor antennas are VHF only, others are VHF/UHF. VHF only rabbit ears will have a problem. Also, check the Wikipedia for your favorite TV stations. Many stations are transmitting digital signals at much a lower power level than the analog signals. This will definitely impact indoor antenna and may impact outdoor antenna.

Last, be careful of advocates of new antennas, some advocates are mis-informed, others are looking to sell fancy “digital” antennas. In particular, there appears to be a price premium on “digital” antennas. No one has yet made a convincing argument that that digital premium is valid. There is little trustworthy evidence that the premium “digital” antenna is any better than an ordinary VHF/UHF antenna, despite the cosmetic differences to the antenna.


Steven Leach (profile) says:

Digital TV Signals stink

My HDTV, and system work great part of the day, the signal strength is about 75% from sacramento, but during the night I get nothing but breakups and problems. I have removed all the splitters, I have put an amplifier on my antenna, but nothing seems to help. So now I will have to put up with Bad DirectTV service like I had 4 years ago, Expensive Dish Service where I pay over 400/year for the 4 channels I like, or some bad cable company that cost 40/month. I already subscribe to NetFlix, so i will just get all mystuff through the DSL, or just give up.

TommyRay (user link) says:

Digital TV is Snuffing-Out Viewers

I’ve also tried several things. I got a newer outdoor antenna even. But due to my location, it would take a 100 ft tower to get above the “blockages” here.

I had an old BnW 4″ TV with NO antenna on my endtable as the main TV with antenna worked in digital.

The small 4″ TV brought in MANY more channels. Snowy picture is better than a blank one!

I constantly have to manually adjust the antenna for a decent signal. RARE is the time I do not have to do this.

I, too, am looking into broadband alternatives. And do not watch TV anymore since I wasted ten bucks for the box. I tried it, I HATE it (Not dislike but hate). I hate having being forced to switch without a vote or a choice or even a decent reason.

Advertisers WILL lose viewers. Stations will lose viewers. Viewers will lose thier over-the-airwaves interest and just give up or switch to another meduim.

There is a website that will show you how to set up the right antenna for your area, though. It does NOT help, and I refuse to buy yet another antenna to ‘try’.

Anonymous Coward says:

This will be an EPIC disaster

It will be amusing to watch. I got my converter boxes, two of them, but I will still be hit; I have several TVs, in bedrooms, in the living room, in the shop… each one would need a box. My old portable tv with antenna? Worthless, now.

The picture with digital is nice, but more prone to errors, and poor reception renders the picture unwatchable (worse than analog).

I think there is a huge number of people that will be caught off-guard when the cutover happens; it’ll be annoying, but I am looking forward to watching the FCC take it on the chin.

D says:

Transition to digital tv & my transition to turn OFF my tv

I was surprise to see that a favorite program was coming in KNMD TV, however after several attempts at adjusting and re-adjusting the antenna, I decided, enough. I turned off the television and turned on my radio. Amazing in this day and age I’m doing what my grandparents did for entertainment. With such terrible reception, forcing people to get amplified antenna’s after getting converter boxes to get free telelvision. When I come home from work, I no longer turn on the tv (are you listening sponsors)I’ve discovered that I have more free time that I throught. The endless commercials and poor television selection, the digital tv reception was the final result in that I don’t need tv as much as I thought I did

sandra says:

TV listings

I saw part of a movie the other day and did not catch the name of it. The listings on Titan TV/TV Guide does not go beyond the previous day. Is there a way to find out what the listings were for the week of 11-17 October on My TV (This Columbus) WSYX, 6.2, Columbus, Ohio?

By the way (for what it is worth), I am still quite disturbed that we were forced to change the way we tune into TV. The fact that we either had to discard perfectly working televisions and buy digital TVs, and/or buy a converter/antenna, or buy cable is truly the pits! And now I can’t even find a place to see what is on!! There were no other alternatives and any TVs that were working fine before the switch and have no hook ups to connect a converter are now junk. I resent it highly. I am all for modern technology, but I resent having limited choices especially when local TV was free to begin with. I realize there is nothing anybody can do about it and this probably isn’t even the right place to air my complaint, but there you have it. Thank you for your time.

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