Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin said he is proposing granting a waiver of the commission's "material degradation" prohibition for small cable systems, but only those not affiliated with larger cable operators.
The American Cable Association asked for a waiver for smaller systems, and Martin signaled his willingness to do so. He circulated an order among the other commissioners that would grant relief to systems serving 2,500 or fewer subscribers or with 552 megahertz or less capacity, but only ones not owned by a cable operator with more than 10% of subscribers nationwide.
The systems that did qualify for the waiver would get three-year exemptions from the requirement that after the Feb. 17, 2009, transition to digital, cable operators have to deliver HDTV signals to their customers if the station delivers the signals to them.
That is one of a handful of items Martin circulated for a vote among the other commissioners, but that he also plans to vote on at an Aug. 22 public meeting if they are not voted before then.