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NCTA Pulls for Dual-Carriage Exemptions

National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) CEO Kyle McSlarrow is urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to exempt some operators from a dual-carriage order the agency approved and adopted last month. (See FCC OKs Dual TV Carriage Rules.)

Specifically, McSlarrow is hoping the FCC will make exceptions for small operators and cable systems with capacity constraints.

The FCC ruling -- passed unanimously the evening of September 11 and aimed at the digital TV transition set for February 17, 2009 -- did give some relief to smaller operators, as MSOs with activated capacity of 552 MHz or less can request a waiver. (Most upgraded cable plant is built out to 750 MHz or greater.)

The question is whether that's enough. FCC commissioner Jonathan Adelstein voted in favor of the mandate but added that the ruling does not provide enough assistance to capacity-constrained operators.

"It is not fair to ask these tiny rural systems to engage lawyers in Washington when a simple exemption would have sufficed," Adelstein said at the time.

Allowing small MSOs to apply for waivers ahead of the digital TV transition "is little more than window dressing and unnecessarily burdensome," McSlarrow said in testimony delivered before the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee today.

He also called out the "FCC's poor record on waiver requests in other contexts," referring to the drawn-out waiver process tied to the agency's mandate on integrated security set-tops, which went into effect July 1. (See Son of 'Waiver Central' and FCC Denies Comcast Again .)

"This Committee has previously recognized that the imposition of dual carriage mandates on low capacity systems adversely affects other important goals like the continued rollout of broadband to rural America," he continued. "The FCC should act now to approve a simple exemption that takes into account the circumstances of small operators and low capacity systems."

In today's testimony, McSlarrow also noted that NCTA, along with other groups, including the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) , recently launched a $200 million ad campaign about the digital TV transition. (See NCTA Vids Spotlight DTV Transition.)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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