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NCTA: Delay or No Delay, Cable's Ready

Unless lawmakers try to conjure up yet another bill, it appears that Feb. 17 will remain the firm date for the broadcast TV digital transition, now that the House has shot down a proposed four-month delay. (See Kill Bill 3 .)

Delay or no delay, either circumstance would have been just fine, according to the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) , the cable industry's pressure group, which claims the industry is all set for Feb. 17.

Preparations include a $20 million national call center initiative (with most of those funds coming from cable's pockets) providing up to 7,000 live operators to be available before and several weeks after the transition. But even that isn't reliant on a Feb. 17 date. "We also have the flexibility to adjust if the date is moved," an NCTA spokesman said.

He confirmed that there's been no change to a proposed "quiet period" that prevents MSOs from moving analog channels to digital-only tiers through March 1. (See Cable Proposes Digital Transition ‘Quiet Period’.)

Based on the most recent input, cable operators were getting ready for Federal Communications Commission (FCC) -mandated dual "must-carry" requirements last fall by ordering special devices that convert over-the-air digital TV signals to analog format. (See FCC OKs Dual TV Carriage Rules and Rebuilding Analog TV .)

Yes, another DTV delay bill could emerge, but keeping the date unchanged should benefit operators in the first half of the year. Several MSOs are taking advantage of the situation with acquisition campaigns tailored to consumers who still watch free over-the-air TV. (See DTV Transition Could Catalyze Cable.) Free Cable! , Cox Bows DTV Promo, and Mediacom Boosts Outlook, Preps DTV Tilt .)

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) favored the revised bill passed by the Senate on Monday because it allowed broadcasters some flexibility as to when they would make the switch. The NAB declined to comment on today's failed House vote. (See Senate Backs Digital Delay Bill .)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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