The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is going to formally consider the possibility of phasing in the digital transition, starting with some test markets, presumably before the February 2009 deadline.

Meanwhile, the FCC officially got around to adopting requirements that call for the TV industry to begin educating consumers about the digital transition coming next February, months after many broadcasters began providing notifications.

Commissioner Michael Copps sent to Chairman Kevin Martin a letter in which Copps reiterates his argument that the U.S. should phase in the digital transition, as other countries (e.g., the U.K.) have done successfully.

In his letter, Copps notes that this has been the subject of conversation between the two men; indeed, Copps has been pushing the notion since the latter half of 2007. That, coupled with the fact that Copps formalized the suggestion in a letter, implies that Martin is not much interested in the plan. Writing a formal letter is a political maneuver designed to force Martin to have the FCC formally consider the proposal. 

It may have worked. Martin’s response, also in a letter, was to characterize the idea as “interesting” and to notify Copps (and the public) that he has assigned the FCC’s DTV Task Force to discuss the matter with stakeholders in the issue.

Copps also recommended a formal assessment of “whether cable and satellite systems will be adequately prepared to receive and pass through broadcasters’ digital signals in February 2009.”

As for the consumer education program, the FCC finally released its DTV Consumer Education Order, requiring TV broadcasters, multi-channel video programming distributors (MVPDs – cable, DBS and IPTV providers), telecom carriers, retailers and manufacturers to promote awareness of the nation’s transition to digital TV.

The Order directs:

• Broadcasters to provide on-air information to their viewers about the DTV transition.

• MVPDs to provide monthly notices about the DTV transition in their customer billing statements. 

• Manufacturers of TV receivers and related devices to provide notice to consumers of the transition’s impact on that equipment.

• partners and winners of the 700 MHz spectrum auction to provide the Commission with regular updates on their consumer education efforts.

• And telecom companies participating in the Low-Income Federal Universal Service Program to provide notice of the transition in their monthly customer billing statements to their low-income customers and potential customers.

More Broadband Direct:

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• Insight bulks up digital tier with more HD, digital music offerings 

• NCTA, cable entities come together on scheduling industry events 

• Brophy, Campbell join ACA’s executive committee 

• AT&T, Sprint upgrade networks in select markets 

• Clearwire ups sub count, operating loss in Q4 

• New Cisco router based on new chip 

• Japan, China, U.S. drive 2007 fiber deployments 

• Number of U.S. mobile subs who recall ads increasing 

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