It looks to me like you are the one who is confused. The links you have provided don't actually contain any support for your statement.Originally Posted by edDV
The first, second, third and fifth link that you provided refer to the ruling exempting small cablecos from carrying HD must-carry channels in their original HD format. (An SD or analog version of the channel may be substituted if HD imposes an unreasonable financial burden for a small company.) Some also say must-carry only applies to the primary subchannel in a multicast.
Some links speak to what constitutes "viewability for all subscribers within the system" a key provision of must carry. Here is a pertinant quote from FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein from the fourth link- "The requirement that cable operators must deliver a 'viewable' signal to cable subscribers is not a mandate for the Commission to specify the ways in which an operator can deliver a 'viewable' signal," Adelstein continued. "Nevertheless, if a cable operator fails to deliver a 'viewable' signal to any cable subscriber, the Commission is obligated to protect the consumer. Cable operators must ensure that all customers can obtain the necessary equipment to view the signal. This is analogous to the need for over-the-air viewers to purchase digital TV sets or invest in a digital-to-analog converter box in order to view over-the-air signals."
I take this quote to mean that should a system go all digital, the cableco must make sure customers who want to continue their service have the necessary equipment installed before making the switch. Nowhere does it say that it must be provided for free.
As far as I can determine from reading pages of FCC and NTIA documents, the FCC is only interested in defining requirements for must-carry status and ensuring viewability of must-carry channels for all subscribers. They gave the cable companies two options to ensure viewability: A. Provide analog versions of must-carry channels (which they must do if they have any other analog channels in the system), or B. make sure DTA converters are available to anyone who needs them, in the event they decide to go all-digital.
It still appears to me that cablecos can charge for any of the equipment needed, even for subscribers with basic analog cable service. (They could choose to hide the charge by raising rates beforehand to cover their costs, and giving "free" basic DTA STBs to these customers, but the boxes will in fact be paid for by subscribers, not the cableco.)
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I was looking here: http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-276576A1.pdf
The way I'm reading this is that cable companies must either provide analog transmissions of the local broadcasts, or provide the necessary equipment (e.g. cable set-top boxes) to view the local broadcasts.
Comcast gave our boxes to many customers, but now charges a monthly fee in case a customer needs an additional box (e.g. for a new TV they have bought), of like $3.99 / month. That's for the very basic, digital cable to analog TV--the digital to digital one or the one with more features costs more per month.
How then do they justify charging monthly fees to rent the box to view the local broadcasts? That seems pretty odd to me. Seems like they can't add a fee to customers just so customers can view what the cable company is required to provide...
Originally Posted by tmw
As for the rest, as far as I can determine, what the cablecos charge for the basic DTA STBs is up to them. They can choose to give subscribers one box for free (as a good-will gesture) and charge for the rest.
This is a quote from section 40 of the summary at http://www.setonresourcecenter.com/register/2008/feb/01/6043A.pdf : "As to cable operators’ concerns about the expense of providing set-top boxes, nothing in this order precludes them from recovering the costs of those boxes from subscribers, and cable operators offer no evidence to support their claim that they will lose a meaningful number of customers because of such charges. Indeed, such claims are rather ironic in light of the cable industry’s recent practice of raising its prices at a rate significantly in excess of inflation."
Looking at it another way, the government is mandating all-digital broadcast TV, requiring me to buy CECBs or a new TV to watch OTA broadcasts post-transition. That being the case. it can hardly prevent paid tv providers from going all digital, should they decide they want to do that, or require them to give away converter boxes for free, if they pursue that course.
Originally Posted by tmwOriginally Posted by FCC
I was refering to statements from former FCC chairmen starting with Micheal Powell that cable companies should not be able to profit or force cable box charges on analog basic customers because of the change to digital only OTA broadcasting. It was the responsibility of the cable company to deliver equivalent analog service at equivalent prices to the analog basic customer. Picture the Grandma watching an 80's analog set.
I haven't had time to dig out those quotes but to me it was intended for the "basic analog" customer getting the locals + maybe CSPAN and local community channels. It specifically applied to "must carry" and PBS stations. It didn't apply to higher tier "30-99" services or analog sets owned by digital cablebox customers.
Administrative interpretation is subject to challenge where members of the commission vote policy, or for courts to add interpretation of Congressional intent or for Congress to amend the law.
If cable companies force analog basic customers to pay extra for a cable box in order to watch "must carry" and PBS stations, I would expect challenge over "viewability requirements".
Note that a full up cable box would not be required. It could be a simple box that converts a few sd QAM subchannels to analog composite out. This would be a much simpler box than a CECB ATSC tuner.
I'll search for the policy quotes when I get the time.
BTW: Comcast here has 10 downconverted SD versions of the locals on one 6MHz QAM channel. They also have all ten on individual 6MHz analog channels tunable by a normal NTSC tuner.
I've also read statements from various FCC spokespersons stating that cable companies will not not be allowed to profit excessively because of the change to digital only OTA broadcasting. Even so, as long as the monthy rental charges for STBs are small, I suspect cablecos will still be permitted to get rid of analog entirely before 2012, and require their basic analog customers to rent an STB.
Cableco pricing policies and practices regarding the elimination of some basic cable analog channels are already being reviewd by the FCC, according to the article jagabo cited early in this thread at http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20081105-fcc-launches-probe-into-possible-cable-p...enanigans.html
I don't think reducing the number of analog channels itself is going to get cableco's into trouble, but charging the same amount or even more for fewer analog channels may.
As far as the technical reasons for changing to all-digital systems go, in every newspaper article and line-up change notice that I have read, my provider, Comcast is carful to justify the need to switch analog channels to digital service tiers. They say it is the only way they can provide a competive selection of TV channels, plus on-demand programming, as well as telephone and broadband internet services, within the limitations of current technology. They are already using switched digital video in order to squeeze everything into one wire (which requires digital customers to use an STB) and reducing the number of analog channels they provide is the only option left to them. To be fair to everyone, they are taking some of the less popular analog channels away from both analog service tiers.
The tradeoff of analog for more digital is also driven by sports and foreign language programming out here. About 25 foreign language and a similar number of sports channels are available for subscription.
I'd be glad to see analog eliminated (or dropped down to the ~half dozen local OTA channels only) if they made all those channels available via clear QAM and bumped the bitrate up to reduce the macroblocking.