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FCC Chief Proposes Exempting Small Cable from HD Rule

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin have come out in favor of exempting small cable operators from a seven-year old rule that disallows cable firms from downconverting HD signals to SD. Martin made his remarks before the American Cable Association on April 8, where his written remarks included the following:

“I understand that smaller cable systems are capacity-constrained. In 2001, the Commission required cable operators to pass through the broadcasters’ HD signals unaltered. The must-carry statute required that there be no material degradation. And I appreciate the concern when such cable systems are unable to carry broadcasters’ HD signal, as the Commission required back in 2001.

“In order to address this real problem, I am circulating a proposal to my colleagues that would give cable systems with 552 MHz or smaller capacity an exemption from this HD requirement. Systems of this size would not need to file a waiver request; they would automatically be relieved of the 2001 obligation to carry the HD signal,” Martin said.

Yet Martin told the group he does not plan to grant them a blanket waiver that the ACA had sought from an FCC decision several months ago to require cable operators to carry local broadcasters in both analog and digital formats—if that is what is necessary to deliver a “viewable signal” to subs.