D.C. used to be empty in the dog days, but this summer’s fun includes a spectrum auction and perhaps a new telecom bill. By Amy Maclean With all the attention telecom legislation has been getting, it’s easy to forget that there are other things happening in Washington. In fact, quite a few are lingering into the dog days of summer and beyond. At the FCC, a closely watched wireless auction began Aug. 9 and likely will last for weeks given the large number of bidders. It will continue until there are no more bids. The auction is significant because cable operators—along with DirecTV and EchoStar—are eyeing the spectrum to use for wireless mobile and broadband services. The FCC has other pending items of interest to operators, including a Comcast request to exempt some low-end digital set-tops from a rule requiring all new boxes to have a CableCARD or removable conditional access system by July 1, 2007. The Consumer Electronics Association and Sony are among those opposing the waiver. NCTA supports Comcast’s request, which, if approved, would apply to the entire industry. A RUNDOWN OF THE FESTIVITIES: AUGUST Congress could enact some form of VoIP 911 requirements. The Advanced Wireless Spectrum auction began Aug. 9 at the FCC and could last weeks. The FCC could act on a request from Comcast to waive certain low-end set-tops from a July 1 deadline requiring all new boxes to have a CableCARD or removable conditional access system. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals also is expected to rule soon on a challenge to FCC set-top rules by Charter and Advance/Newhouse. These are important cases for operators because they influence purchases. If nothing happens this month, continue to watch for rulings in the coming weeks. SEPTEMBER It’s possible the Senate could approve its telecom bill, though it would be difficult to do so with a scarcity of legislative days and other issues on the docket. The bill would then have to be reconciled with the House’s version. The FCC may loosen local franchise restrictions for the Bells if nothing is approved in Congress. Lawmakers could still try tackling a franchise bill during a lame-duck session after the November elections. Advanced Wireless Spectrum auction may continue. The Third Circuit likely will hear arguments over the classification of DSL service this month or in October. The case is the result of the FCC exempting DSL from common carrier rules that required telcos to share their infrastructure with competitors. OCTOBER U.S. District Court Southern District of New York hearing slated in a content providers’ suit over Cablevision’s network DVR. MSOs are watching this case before making decisions on pursuing similar tech. Remote-storage DVRs are less expensive than DVRs located within set-top boxes. Source: Stifel Nicolaus and CableWorld research

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