01.15.2009 09:20 AM
FCC Commissioner Can’t Get Through to FCC Call Center

FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell, the agency’s very own maverick Republican, is once again not falling in behind his likewise-affiliated chairman, Kevin Martin. McDowell is sounding the alarm that the commission is not ready for the Feb. 17 DTV transition while Martin tours the country opposing a delay. In a letter to the chairman, McDowell questioned the efficacy of the FCC Consumer Call Center, simultaneously demonstrating that least one commissioner has bothered to dial the 1-888-CALL-FCC line.

“Through personal experience, I have found that busy signals are common,” McDowell wrote. “And, when the line actually rings, it frequently does so for more than two minutes. After what can be a lengthy period of ringing, the caller is greeted with an electronic options menu rather than a live operator. Moreover, callers that opt for a live operator are sometimes spontaneously disconnected rather than rerouted.”

McDowell noted that no one answers phones on weekends, when people having trouble hooking up converter boxes are most likely to call. He also questioned pending quotes related to outsourcing the call center. The commission last week shelled out $8.4 million in contracts for DTV education, much of it to local grassroots groups, and a big chunk to the American Association of Retired Persons. Another $11.6 million remains in the fund Congress supplied to the FCC last September for DTV education.

“I wonder whether last week’s FCC News Release announcing various contract awards completes the commission’s efforts,” McDowell wrote.

While he didn’t flat out advocate delaying the deadline, McDowell did say the commission needed a fire lit beneath their nether-regions.

“I believe that the commission’s outreach and call center efforts can be remedied in time,” he wrote,” but we have an extraordinary amount of ground to cover in a short period of time.”

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