By Ira Teinowitz
As the Federal Communications Commission readies to order cable companies to carry broadcasters new DTV multicasting signals-setting off a legal battle over who has the right to pick the local channels consumers can see-a major telephone company is stepping up to volunteer to run the extra channels PBS and its stations will offer.
Verizon announced Friday an agreement with PBS and the Association of Public Television Stations to run the complete multicast feeds of up to three public TV stations in each market on its fiber-optic FiOS service with the only condition being that it won’t run identical programming from two PBS stations.
Under digital multicasting, a broadcast station can run a single HDTV signal of high quality or split its signal and offer several channels at lesser quality.
Verizon currently has FiOS in more than 50 communities in seven states, and the bandwidth the fiber offers is larger than most cable providers have available.
The FCC is expected to vote Wednesday on digital multicasting requirements for cable and Chairman Kevin J. Martin has been pushing for imposing a multicasting requirement on cable operators. Cable operators say the requirement is unnecessary, unconstitutional and has twice before been rejected by the FCC.