FCC Seeks Input on DTV Have-Nots

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The Federal Communications Commission Friday took the first step toward deciding which satellite-TV customers don't receive clear digital signals from their local network affiliates and are therefore eligible to import feeds from network stations in distant markets.

Eligibility for imported network channels is a contentious issue between DBS providers and broadcast stations.

Broadcasters have charged that Echostar in the past violated local stations' exclusive rights to carry network programming in their markets by providing imported feeds to subscribers who could receive their local channels just fine.

Only subscribers who cannot receive an acceptable picture from their local stations are eligible for imported feeds via DBS. The standard for determining eligibility is set by Congress.

Lawmakers in December 2004 asked the FCC to examine the need for new eligibility rules once TV has transitioned from analog to all-digital signals.

Friday, the FCC launched an inquiry to determine whether the current digital signal
strength standard and testing procedures are adequate.

The commission is requesting input on whether any revisions are necessary. The information will be used for a report due to Congress Dec. 8.

Specifically the FCC wants to know whether:

1) to account for different antenna installations and orientation
2) it should revise measurement procedures. a standard that does not rely on signal strength should be used.

3) it should develop a new mathematical model for predicting whether a household is receiving an acceptable signal

4) to account for variation in DTV sets' ability to receive over-the-air signals clearly

5) account for external interference sources, such as foliage and man-made clutter, or interference from television stations in nearby markets.