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Digital TV Switch Confuses Customers

15 Jun, 2009 By: Chris Tribbey

More than 900 TV stations switched their broadcasts from analog to digital June 12, prompting a record number of calls to the Federal Communications Commission’s toll-free help line.

More than 900,000 calls were received by the FCC June 8-15 as the deadline for the nation’s digital transition came and went June 12. The FCC had more than 4,000 operators handling calls from consumers. Most of the calls were concerning the operation of digital converter boxes, the FCC said.

The FCC said that reports of lost broadcast signals were being investigated in Chicago, Philadelphia and New York.

The Nielsen Co. estimated that as many as 2.8 million households nationwide, representing 2.5% of the population, would have no broadcasts at all after the switch took place. For those who could lose their TV signal, keeping it would entail paying for service, investing in a new TV with a digital tuner or buying a digital converter box for their current set.

“In a broader sense, the transition is not over, even for those of us who dutifully connected our converter boxes by [the] deadline,” said Michael J. Copps, acting chairman of the FCC. “Because despite the understandable focus on June 12, the DTV transition is not a one-day affair. There will be a period of adjustment as we all figure out how to make this new technology work in the real world.”

He added that the transition will offer consumers more free, over-the-air programming with higher quality, and will free up airwaves for emergency communications and wireless services.

Verizon said in a statement that more than 270 local stations that were being broadcast over the company’s fiber-optic FiOS service were working by June 13.

“For roughly 56 stations, we needed to actually take action in our video hub offices to channel the stations’ signals onto out networks,” said Verizon project manager Tom Romano.

Until July 31, the the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) will continue to offer $40 coupons to consumers toward the purchase of a converter box.

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