Skip to main content

United States and Canada sign DTV agreement

A letter of understanding was signed by the United States and Canada to accommodate cross-border DTV allocations. The letter covers DTV operations within 250 miles of either side of the U.S.-Canadian border. The new letter covers the relationships between analog and digital stations and allotments, as well as digital-to-digital relationships, and has the following specific features:

- All DTV allotments in both countries have been accepted.

- Parameters for acceptance of new DTV allotments have been adopted.

- Analog LPTV proposals within 20 miles of the border, digital LPTVs within 62 miles of the border, and LPTVs whose interfering contours would cross the border, will be referred to the other country for approval.

- Canada will make "reasonable efforts" to place DTV allotments on frequencies that will not interfere with public safety services on U.S. TV Channels 52 - 69.

Public officials from border states, including Ohio, Maine, Michigan, New York and Vermont, have expressed fears that the letter of understanding could lead to Canadian DTV broadcasts interfering with public safety operations on Channels 52 - 69. Canada agreed to take these operations into consideration and to try to move DTV allotments out of Channels 52 - 69.

Website privacy examined In this technological era, problems arise much faster than the law can deal with them. With regard to the Internet, one of the most important issues is online privacy.

The Information Age has given consumers a keen awareness of how little privacy they have left. A company with a website has the ability to collect information about a consumer the moment that person logs on. Cookies allow a website to track a certain computer's visits to the website and to know where that computer has looked. (Cookies can not identify the user, just the computer.) Keyword searches can trigger banner advertisements tailored to the information being sought. This information benefits the website operator, because he gets to know his customers. Consumers, however, do not necessarily want to be tracked or seen without their permission.

To avoid government regulation, businesses have begun to self-regulate by developing privacy policies. With the exception of COPPA requirements (referenced below) and the provisions of certain insurance policies, privacy policies are voluntary and should be seen by businesses as a tool to build goodwill. A posted privacy policy provides notice of how a website uses information and gives consumers the option to leave the site if they do not agree. More and more consumers are reading privacy policies and will only deal with websites that have them.

Privacy policies may be voluntary, but they are enforceable in court. In fact, most Internet privacy litigation, whether initiated by the Federal Trade Commission or by private individuals, has involved the violation of a voluntarily posted privacy policy.

If a business posts a privacy policy on its website, the person drafting the policy should be told how information is collected, how long it will be kept, whether it will be used and, if so, how. Once the policy is drafted, key management personnel should understand the company's responsibilities under the policy.

Should features such as customer registration be added, or should technical features be changed on the website, the privacy policy must be updated to cover the changes. Otherwise, the website may inadvertently fall out of compliance with the owner's posted rules, thereby opening the door to liability under any number of consumer protection statutes.

One of the few U.S. privacy laws written and passed with the Internet in mind is the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA). It applies to the online collection of personal information from children under 13. The regulations specify what a website operator must include in its privacy policy, when and how to seek verifiable parental consent and what responsibilities an operator has to protect children's privacy and safety online.

In sum, once a privacy policy is posted, new obligations are created. Website operators must understand their responsibilities under the policy, meet those responsibilities, update the policy as the website changes and avoid violating the privacy rights of persons logging on.

Unless the new EEO rules are invalidated by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, stations in the following states will be required to place their Annual EEO Public File Reports in their public files and on their websites on or before Feb. 1, 2001: Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York and Oklahoma. Biennial ownership reports will also be due for the same states on Feb. 1.

All commercial DTV facilities must be on the air by May 1, 2002.

All NCE-TV stations must have built out their DTV facilities by May 1, 2003.