The NAB and MSTV want terrestrial reception parity with cable in the cable-ready

The NAB and MSTV filed comments in the FCC proceeding on the Memorandum of Understanding and proposed Commission rules submitted by the Consumer Electronics Association (“CEA”) and the National Cable Television Association (“NCTA”) on a cable compatibility standard for the “cable-ready” digital television or set-top box.

The agreement addresses both the technical requirements for direct connection of unidirectional digital receivers and other devices to digital cable systems and the provision of tuning and schedule information to support the navigation function of digital television receivers, including on-screen program guides.

The NAB and MSTV in their response asked for three items to be included in a FCC ruling. First that Over-the-Air Tuning Capability Should Be Included in the Cable-Ready Rules. The comments noted glaring omission from the digital cable-ready specifications in the Agreement of support for the ATSC Digital Television Standard A/53B, which would ensure inclusion of over-the-air digital reception capability in cable-ready digital receivers. The two organizations said that consumers simply assume that “television receivers,” including cable-ready television receivers, will be able to receive over-the-air television signals. As the NAB and MSTV described in their comments, the lack of 8-VSB tuning capability in the long-awaited “cable-ready” receivers would be contrary to the public interest. A/53, which described the overall system characteristics of the U.S. Advanced Television System, has been amended by A/53B, which defines the capability in digital television receivers to demodulate the 64/256 QAM (cable) modulation and the 8/16 VSB modulation.

The NAB and MSTV also asked that “certain technical rules must be refined.”

The two said that there are some key areas of concern that the Commission must address when the SCTE (Society of Cable Television Engineers) voluntary standards referred to in the Agreement are incorporated into the FCC rules. NAB and MSTV say that the agreement did not update the referenced revisions to the SCTE standards cited in the proposed rules. The agreement urges adoption of the February 2000 PSIP agreement, but does not point out that it is the “Requirements” section of the PSIP agreement that contains the mandatory elements to be included in the FCC rules. They also pointed out that all PSIP data in the broadcast stream should be carried in its entirety in-band by the cable operator, but some of the SCTE standards suggested for inclusion in the FCC rules contain mandatory language of a detailed technical nature that is inappropriate or inconsistent with inclusion in the FCC rules.

The ANSI/SCTE 54 2003 standard defines the structure and method for carriage of both 1-part and 2-part channel numbers. However, the standard permits replacement of a 2-part channel number with a 1-part number. NAB and MSTV believe that this represents an inappropriate and harmful alteration of the broadcast DTV signal. They asked the Commission to explicitly disallow a cable operator’s removal of the 2-part channel number when it is present in a broadcast signal and require that the channel number provided by the broadcaster’s PSIP information be available to cable subscribers for channel identification and navigation purposes.

PSIP data structures are defined in SCTE 54 2003, but the Agreement does not require carriage of the PSIP data. The February 2000 PSIP agreement (which is part of the agreement) requires the carriage of PSIP data, including 12 hours of event information tables. NAB and MSTV urge the FCC to mandate that, when a digital Transport Stream (TS) of a broadcast signal contains PSIP data (per A/65B), the PSIP data shall be carried in its entirety by the cable operator in-band.

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