Small cable operators do not face additional DTV carriage obligations, says Martin

April 11, 2008

The views of small cable operators and the FCC aren’t too far apart on DTV carriage issues, FCC chairman Kevin Martin told those gathered April 8 for the ACA 15th Annual Summit in Washington, D.C.

Speaking specifically about cable operators with 552MHz or less of capacity, Martin said an FCC order last fall aimed at guaranteeing analog cable subscribers will continue to receive broadcast stations after they complete their DTV transition does not increase “the broadcast carriage burden on cable operators.”

The order, he explained, was needed to clarify that cable operators would be allowed to downconvert DTV signals for analog subscribers without violating commission rules. “Therefore you should have no objection to the commission’s order,” he said.

Currently, Martin is circulating a proposal among fellow commissioners to exempt cable operators with 552MHz of capacity or less from an FCC rule adopted in 2001 requiring cable operators to pass through broadcast HD signals, he said. Under the proposal, cable operators would automatically be relieved of this obligation and not required to file for a waiver to the rule.

According to Martin that means such bandwidth-limited cable operators have no additional carriage obligations if:

  • they are analog-only –such operators can simply downconvert DTV broadcast signals to analog for their subscribers;
  • they have a mix of analog and digital subscribers where digital subscribers can view analog signals –such operators can downconvert DTV broadcast signals to analog and send them as they do today;
  • they have a mix of analog and digital subscribers where digital subscribers can’t view analog –such operators can downconvert DTV broadcast signals for analog subscribers and continue to just transmit the digital signal to digital subscribers.

According to Martin, the bottom line is that after Feb. 17, 2009, cable subscribers will continue to be able to watch broadcast signals with no increased carriage burden on smaller cable system. Additionally, the exemption he is promoting will relieve such systems from having to carry broadcasters’ HD signals.

For more information, visit: http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-281383A1.pdf.

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