Appearing as a guest on C-SPAN‘s The Communicators over the weekend, NCTA President and CEO Kyle McSlarrow expressed satisfaction with the three-year time limit placed on the viewability requirements in recent action by the Federal Communications Commission.

"We thought this was a sensible compromise so that we could do what we needed to do to take care of our customers, get through the digital transition, help the public policy side of it and also put an endpoint to it," McSlarrow said.

Without discussing the technical logistics of the digital TV transition, McSlarrow emphasized the industry’s interest in deploying a range of additional services, specifically mentioning wideband, which he said would offer consumers as much as 100 Mbps downstream. The new rules According to the new FCC rules, after the transition in 2009, cable operators must continue making local stations viewable by all subscribers until 2012. There had been talk that dual carriage would be perpetual, which McSlarrow said would have been a violation of the Constitution, as it relates to speech and private property among other things.

McSlarrow said that the members of NCTA are working ease the transition. Cable operators have committed $200 million in part to help educate consumers and have joined with satellite providers and broadcasters to operate dtvtransition.org. (Home page message: "On February 17, 2009, Television will go all digital, all the time. Are you ready?) Operators will target all forms of media as well as utilize grass roots organizations such as AARP, McSlarrow said.

"The (cable industry) is the largest provider of television services in America," McSlarrow said. "We felt like we had a responsibility to be part of (the transition)," he said. A la carte? On another topic, McSlarrow reiterated objection to a la carte programming. Not only would it fail to benefit consumers, he said, it actually would be "anti-consumer." The studies he quoted indicate that consumers would pay more for less if channels were offered a la carte.

McSlarrow added that a la carte would lead to government regulation of price and hurt content and diversity. "If you really believe in the marketplace, you should really believe in the marketplace," he said. – Monta Hernon

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