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No room for analog and digital, MSOs say

Jun 25, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Now that AT&T has beefed up the channel capacity of most of its cable systems, the cable giant is telling the Federal Communications Commission it won’t have room to carry both the analog and the digital TV signals of broadcasters.
The major problem, according to a recent AT&T filing at the FCC, is that the additional spectrum has already been earmarked for new cable services, including cable’s digital TV tiers, telephony, video on demand and high-speed Internet hookups.
According to the filing, AT&T projects by year’s end that 63 percent of its systems will have been upgraded to at least 750 MHz. But according to the cable giant, all but 32 MHz of that spectrum has been earmarked for cable services.
In 2002, according to AT&T, when 66 percent of its systems are expected to be upgraded to at least 750 MHz, the company projects that it could fall 10 MHz short of the spectrum it needs just to meet demand for cable’s own services.
“The bottom line is bandwidth is scarce even in a digital age,” an AT&T spokesman said.
Other multiple system operators told the FCC a similar story.
Insight Communications said its 750 MHz system in Louisville, Ky., is using 93 percent of the available bandwidth for current services, including interactive digital video, “with the remaining balance reserved for increased penetration of our new and enhanced products, such as video on demand and telephone.”
The FCC asked the cable MSOs for the information to address the broadcast industry’s allegation that upgraded cable systems have plenty of room to carry the analog and digital TV signals of broadcasters during that industry’s transition to DTV technology.
Despite the cable industry’s documentation, the National Association of Broadcasters was sticking to its story.
“The claim that cable companies don’t have channel capacity to carry local TV stations does not hold up to scrutiny,” said Dennis Wharton, an NAB spokesman.
In its own filing at the FCC, Comcast said the commission has been presented with “compelling arguments against expanding the required carriage of broadcast signals.”
Added David Beckwith, a spokesman for the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, “We believe it’s better to let consumers and the marketplace decide how cable’s spectrum is utilized.”