The first wave in the digital transition went relatively smoothly by at least one measure: the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) fielded only about 25,000 calls on Feb. 18, the first full day that more than 400 U.S. broadcast stations had cut off analog transmissions.
The following day, Feb. 19, there were 17,000 calls. The FCC’s call centers were prepared to handle as many as 100,000 calls per day.
While the transition went relatively smoothly, most of the stations that made the switch are located in smaller markets, the FCC noted, and at least one station in most of the markets that experienced a switch continued to broadcast in analog.
One of the larger markets to make the transition was San Diego. TV stations there told the local Union-Tribune they were getting only tens of calls.
According to FCC call center data, more than 32 percent of the calls to the FCC’s help line on Wednesday were from consumers who had questions about reception and technical issues. The next most common problem was from consumers who had difficulty with their converter boxes (some had to manually initiate a scan and did not realize it), followed by consumers who complained they could not receive area broadcast signals.
There were media reports from scattered markets – including Madison, Wis.; and San Francisco – where some viewers, so far a small number of them, report losing signals they previously had access to. Problems range from topography (being blocked from signals by hills) to simple distance (some digital signals don’t reach as far as the analog signals they replace – the so-called “cliff effect”).
Acting FCC Chairman Michael J. Copps said: “Thanks to the movement of the deadline, we did not have anything like the extent of disruption we would have experienced had every station in the country gone completely digital on Tuesday. In fact, we tried to ensure that in every market in America, at least one station continues to broadcast an analog signal. That made a huge difference in smoothing the way. It meant that no market was deprived of local news and public safety information. That, plus the stepped-up consumer education put in place over the last few weeks and the limited number of markets in which most or all of the stations wanted to terminate analog service, helped cut down significantly on consumer disruption.”
Separately, the FCC issued rules associated with the delay of the transition to June, including some simple measures such as directing that all previous rules reflect the new date, extending so-called “night light” provisions that keep analog stations on the air with messaging associated with the digital transition, and the extension of rights to 700 MHz spectrum.