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FCC Selects IBM for DTV Call Center

January 19, 2009

If you live in the U.S. and you own a television set, you likely know that your viewing options are going to change come February, 2009. Networks and other entertainment providers throughout the country are mandated to go digital in High Definition in less than a month – at least that is the plan for now.

The Federal Communication Commission (FCC (News - Alert)) tapped IBM to handle its DTV call center. The organization turned to the same subcontractor used by the National Telecommunications & Information Administration to oversee the DTV-to-analog converter box coupon distribution.  

John Eggerton reported in a Broadcasting and Cable piece that the coupon distribution has run into a funding ceiling, slowing the process to nearly a standstill. Congress is reportedly working to fix the problem and is considering moving the transition date from Feb. 17 to June 12 to provide for more time to get distribution going again and properly educate consumers.

CBS took advantage of its large, pre-NFL playoff game audience to educate its viewers about the impending transition. The network’s studio sports team pointed out that the DTV transition was inevitable and suggested that people call the 1-800-DTV2009 hotline.

According to the FCC on Friday – which also happened to be Chairman Kevin Martin’s last day – it had awarded the up-to-$12 million call center contract. With this implementation, the FCC will be able to field as many as 2 million calls the week of the transition and up to 400,000 calls the day after the transition date, whether it is February or June.

The funding for this deal is a result of $20 million that Congress appropriated in September to fund the digital outreach efforts. The FCC had experienced significant criticism for its call center program. Many had perceived the organization’s lack of planning to handle the flood of calls as a poor move.

The call center established to handle the flood of calls concerning the DTV transition is one step in the right direction, although it is possible that there is much work still to be done. Commercials broadcast over the weekend invited consumers to visit the DTV2009.gov website, yet plugging in the address prompted an error page, failing to produce the desired site.

It is possible that the FCC was ill-equipped to prepare for the influx of calls and website visitors, prompting a need for change. As these obstacles continue to emerge, a change in the transition date is much more likely.

Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMCnet and has also written for eastbiz.com. To read more of Susan's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Tim Gray

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