Cable360AM — News briefing for Thursday, Oct. 11 »

Former Cox Communications president and CEO Jim Robbins died yesterday; he was 65. More on Robbins’ legacy in our online tribute.

The Wall Street Journal looks at cable operators’ plans to keep up with DirecTV‘s HD channel expansion this fall, including launching switched digital video. Cable technologies such as switched digital video are "closing the HDTV gap very quickly," notes the article, which concludes that "within a year it will boil down to basics — who offers the best value, the best service and the best bundle."

Verizon wants to bring FiOS TV beyond its launchpad of Keller in Texas, where it applied yesterday for an expanded video franchise to expand to Far North Dallas and North Grand Prairie. With more than 150,000 Dallas-area subscribers, "Things are going very well down here with FiOS," Verizon’s CTO Mark Wegleitner tells the Dallas Morning News.

Terry Denson, Verizon‘s VP of FiOS TV content strategy and acquisition, also tells Telephony Online that "very few" customers are asking for 100Mbps service, now being tested by Verizon employees, "but it raises the ante… it’s sexy."

The FCC faces a deadline of midnight tonight to rule on AT&T‘s petition for regulatory relief from the agency’s rules governing what it can charge other companies for access to its high-speed Internet lines. The FCC is seen as likely to approve AT&T’s proposal if the telco agrees to stricter regulation over its special access commercial business. The agency may rule on a similar request by Qwest. [Reuters | Wall Street Journal | Reuters]

Separately, FCC chairman Kevin Martin told the House Small Business Panel yesterday the agency considered applying open access conditions more widely in the upcoming wireless spectrum auction, but "smaller carriers didn’t want that." He also told reporters he had no intention of revisiting the auction rules, as has been urged by Verizon Wireless. [Dow Jones]

The House Telecom Subcommittee yesterday approved a version of chairman Ed Markey’s broadband mapping bill that no longer requires providers to collect data or defines broadband as 2Mbps or higher; and also approved legislation to ensure VoIP customers have e911 access. The House Judiciary committee also passed a bill that extends the Internet tax moratorium beyond its Nov. 1 expiry date.

The heads of the Big Four broadcast TV networks — Peter Chernin (News Corp./Fox), Bob Iger (Disney/ABC), Les Moonves (CBS) and Jeff Zucker (NBC Universal/NBC) — sent a letter to Martin outlining their opposition to "personal and portable unlicensed" mobile devices operating in the DTV spectrum band, reports Broadcasting & Cable. They’re urging the FCC to adopt a fixed device system over "current proposals based on ‘sensing’ to avoid interference (that) could cause permanent damage to over-the-air digital television reception.

As the digital TV transition looms in Feb. 2009 and rabbit ears will become a thing of the past, old school TV manufacturers including RCA and Zenith are hoping to cash in on the potential multibillion-dollar market opportunity by ramping up production on digital converter boxes, reports the Wall Street Journal.

GE head Jeff Immelt will assess whether to sell its $40 billion NBC Universal arm after the advertising windfall of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, reports the Financial Times: ”The games also allow GE to boost sales of its aviation, medical technology and other businesses in China. GE is forecasting $500m in extra sales from Olympics-related contracts, excluding NBC."

Joost is planning to stream live TV. Tests with undisclosed content partners will start in the first quarter, the online video service’s EVP of content strategy and acquisition, Yvette Alberdingkthijm, told Mipcom attendees in Cannes. [Paid Content | Ars Technica]

Former Viacom chairman and CEO Tom Freston prevailed yesterday when the Supreme Court affirmed a lower court’s ruling that New York City must reimburse him (and thus any parent) for tuition costs at a private school deemed to better meet a child’s special needs than the city’s public schools. [AP | New York Times | Washington Post]

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