A record 55,000 consumers called in to the Federal Communication Commission’s help line after a nationwide "soft test" Thursday that was meant to encourage citizens to prepare for the June 12 digital television (DTV) transition. That help line typically receives about 15,000 calls per day.
Most who called in were seeking information about the government’s program that provides $40 coupons for purchasing DTV converter boxes, while others expressed concern about reception in their area or needed instruction to install a converter box.
“This soft test did exactly what it was supposed to do,”acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps said in a statement. “It was a wake-up call for consumers who are unprepared, alerting them to the fact that they need to take the necessary steps before the June 12 DTV transition.”
Over 125 broadcast markets participated in the test, during which viewers were instructed to call the toll-free help line if they needed help prepping for the upcoming switch to DTV. The test simulated what unprepared viewers will experience when the transition occurs – but instead of cutting off the analog signal entirely, broadcasters interrupt regular programming to warn viewers they aren’t ready for the switch.
Nielsen estimates that approximately 3.3. million households — 2.9 percent of U.S. households with TVs — weren’t ready for the transition as of May 10. The switch is aimed to give viewers better sound and picture, more channels and programs and will clear the airwaves for advanced mobile Internet services or first-responder radio service.