Fritts appeals to Congress for multicasting support on cable

Cable association leader Kyle McSlarrow says doing so would be harmful to consumers

Testifying before the Senate Commerce Committee July 12, NAB president and CEO Edward Fritts told Congress that the broadcast has done its part to set the table for a hard date for analog switch-off. Now it’s up to lawmakers to protect viewers.

“Broadcasters accept that Congress will implement a 2009 hard date for the end of analog broadcasts,” he said. However, for viewers to enjoy the benefits of “a fully developed system of free, local digital television” requires Congress to act, he said.

Pointing to multicasting as an example of how consumers can benefit from digital broadcasts, Fritts gave lawmakers specific examples. WDBJ in Roanoke, VA, broadcasts CBS HDTV programming and through multicasting offers extended coverage of news, ACC sports and Virginia Tech football games, he said.

However, cable operators are stunting the full growth of multicasting. They “refuse to provide these services to their subscribers,” he said. Full development of multcasting services will be difficult “if cable monopolies strip these free services,” he added.

The Commerce Committee also heard from Kyle McSlarrow, president and CEO of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, who saw things differently. In his testimony McSlarrow said broadcasters are seeking “carriage of both an analog and a digital version of the same signal.”

“But dual must carry — and multicast must carry, another one of the broadcasters’ proposals — will do nothing to forward the digital transition and harms consumers, cable operators, and cable programmers alike,” he said.

Such dual carriage will harm consumers by slowing deployment of other cable services, such as “100+ megabits per second Internet access, VoIP telephone service, and digital programming tiers.”

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