FCC gives DirecTV, Dish Network extension on digital deadline
DirecTV and Dish Network have until 2013 to carry every station in HD, but if they carry an HD signal from one local broadcaster, they have to carry all of the HD signals in that market, which prevents them from picking certain HD signals to carry.
Once broadcasters make the transition to all-digital signals in February 2009, cable operators will have to carry TV signals in digital and analog formats for three years for any station that wants “dual carriage.” The FCC also mandated that cable operators provide HD feeds, which are much more bandwidth intensive than standard-definition (SD) feeds.
The American Cable Association  (ACA) has recently filed comments with the FCC requesting exemptions for smaller cable operators. Dual carriage of both analog and digital signals is more problematic for smaller operators if they are facing bandwidth constraints.
“The FCC’s willingness to consider the post-transition burdens providers will face in the coming years, and more importantly its willingness to take action to relieve them, is a positive sign for small and independent cable providers and consumers in their service areas,” said ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka.
“But while the FCC’s reported decision is encouraging, we certainly hope the Commission fully understands that easing the rules for only one set of providers would give satellite TV a competitive advantage over small and independent cable operators, and that the last thing the second- and fourth-largest pay-television companies in the country need is more of an advantage,” Polka said.
The National Cable and Telecommunications Association  (NCTA) has also requested that the FCC provide dual carry exemptions for smaller operators.
In other FCC news, yesterday it banned carriers from entering into exclusive contracts to provide telecommunications services in residential apartment buildings, and it prohibited enforcement of existing contracts that contain exclusivity provisions.
The cable industry has opposed the FCC’s efforts in this area because it can kill cable operators’ triple-play opportunities in commercial MTEs (multiple-tenant environments).
The FCC found that “these exclusive agreements between carriers and building owners hurt consumers and harm competition, with little evidence of countervailing benefits.”
The FCC said that exclusive contracts have blocked access by consumers to competitive and popular triple-play offerings of voice, video and broadband.
Yesterday’s action is consistent with the FCC’s previous moves to expand competition for communications services in apartment buildings and MTEs, the Commission said.
Last year, the FCC banned exclusive deals for video services in residential apartment buildings, and in 2000 it prohibited exclusive contracts for telecommunications services in commercial MTEs.
More Broadband Direct:
• Broadband Briefs for 3/20/08