As 2003 came to a close, 1,129 stations were on-the-air transmitting a DTV signal in 202 markets, according to figures from the National Association of Broadcasters.
A total of 99.35 percent of all U.S. television households were served by broadcasters transmitting a digital TV signal, the association said.
More than 106 million U.S. TV households, or 84.15 percent of all TV households in this country, are in markets with five or more broadcasters transmitting a DTV signal. Almost 60 percent are in markets where eight or more broadcasters transmit DTV.
2003 saw dramatic expansion of the cable industry’s HDTV offerings. In a year end statement, National Cable & Telecommunications Association president and CEO Robert Sachs said that since passage of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, cable operators had invested $84 billion to upgrade their networks with fiber optic technology.
At the end of 2002, the cable industry was in the initial stages of its HDTV launch. “A year later, 70 million American households can receive HDTV from their local cable operator, and a dozen cable networks are airing HD programming on a fulltime or part-time basis,” Sachs said.
Nationwide, high-definition television is available via cable in 96 of the top 100 markets and a total of 143 markets.
Among the other significant developments affecting the cable industry in 2003:
- FCC approval of the cable-consumer electronics industry plug-and-play agreement in September that led to sets capable of allowing consumers to view HD programming on their digital cable-ready televisions without needing a set-top box;
- Continued growth of high-speed cable service with 15 million subscribers receiving service from local cable operators as of the end of 2003;
- The testing and launching of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) by several cable operators.
Looking ahead, Sachs predicted that the cable industry would face several important public policy issues, including an FCC ruling on digital signal carriage, establishment of a federal regulatory framework for VoIP, continued deregulation of broadband Internet service and Congressional enactment of an extension to the Internet Tax Freedom Act.