High Demand at FCC Call Center

Callers experiencing hang-ups, delays

Update: The FCC’s wait time is up to 15 minutes, according to the latest phone message.

The FCC had no call center volume figures at press time, but those 4,000 operators the FCC has standing by may already have their hands full.

Three calls to its 1-888-CALL-FCC 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 soundtracks. The third went straight to hold music after the computer advisories about rescanning.