Dish: Local HD Would Cost $1 Billion

If satellite providers were required to broadcast all local must-carry channels in HD, it would cost EchoStar “over a billion dollars” in upgrades across the 174 markets where Dish Network offers local service, the company told the FCC.

“Our fleet of eight DBS satellites is at, or near, full capacity today,” the company said in a filing describing a Feb. 8 phone conversation with FCC officials. “If Dish Network were required to carry all must-carry channels in HD, approximately three new, state-of-the-art satellites—with access to corresponding new spectrum—would need to be designed and constructed to meet those new burdens, This is a four-year process with a price tag of over a billion dollars.”

Furthermore, said Dish, if bandwidth on transponders waited fallow for local broadcasters to start their HD broadcasts, it would deprive many communities from receiving popular HD channels including those of NFL games and the 2008 Summer Olympics.

“HD-hungry consumers would be forced to subscribe to higher-priced services, such as cable,” Dish said.

The company also said HD carriage is a far greater burden for satellite providers than for cable, since the satellites are not reclaiming any spectrum previously used for analog channels.