Congress should consider helping fund small cable operators’ conversion to digital TV, Sunflower Broadband gm/ACA chmn Patrick Knorr will say in House testimony Wed. In his testimony, Knorr points to the Deficit Reduction Act of ’05, in which Congress set aside $75mln to assist low-power and translator broadcast stations in upgrading their facilities to digital from analog. "The ACA believes that a similar program should be considered to help small cable operators, who represent an important link in the television chain in rural America," Knorr’s prepared testimony says. The House Telecom subcommittee is holding its 3rd hearing on the status of the DTV transition Wed. Systems with a limited amount of subs can’t afford to upgrade or buy digital boxes, and the cost can’t be recouped in the current marketplace, Knorr says. "Those that cannot afford to upgrade will eventually bow to the competitive pressure of the 2 satellite providers and shut down their facilities," Knorr’s testimony says. The ACA chmn also reiterates ACA’s stance that the FCC’s dual-carriage rules should exempt small cable operators from having to file requests for waivers—a process that it argues is costly and burdensome. Knorr asks Congress to pass legislation providing an outright dual-carriage exemption to small cable ops, or to weigh in at the FCC and urge more flexible rules for those operators. Under the rules passed by the FCC last month, cable systems that are not 100% digital need to carry stations that elect mandatory carriage in analog and digital formats for 3 years, starting Feb 17, ’09. Also slated to testify at Wed’s hearing are Insight CEO Michael Willner, Hearst-Argyle pres/CEO David Barrett and Best Buy svp, merchandising Michael Vitelli.

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