EchoStar announced March 21 that it successfully launched EchoStar XIV, with which the satellite TV operator says it will expand its high-definition offerings in the U.S.
The launch brings the total number of satellites in the Dish Network fleet to 15. The company will need plenty of satellite capacity to fulfill its pledge of delivering local-into-local service into the more than two dozen remaining smaller markets that have been uneconomical to serve and whose subs have lacked access to local stations via their satellite carrier.
Getting local service to those smaller, principally rural areas has been a big priority for Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), chairman of the House Communications Subcommittee, whose primarily rural district is home to a couple of those markets.
EchoStar is also negotiating with noncommercial stations on an advanced timetable for delivering their HD signals. It has suggested that it will be tough to meet the demand of both requirements, which are part of the satellite reauthorization bill that may or may not get a vote this week.
There is currently a separate bill to extend the current license for a third time.
It has already been extended from Dec. 31, 2009, when the five-year authorization was set to expire, to Feb. 28; then again to March 28--with a brief lapse--due to
Congress's inability to pass the reauthorization bill.
The first failure was reportedly due to Rebublican concerns over Dish getting back into the distant-signal business, which was its quid pro quo for delivering the local signals to the remaining small markets.
Then it got bundled with a jobs bill that got held up over one Republican senator's opposition to extending unemployment benefits.
A Dish spokesperson was not available to comment specificially on the impact of the new satellite capacity on its ability to fulfill the commitments in the bill.