With a little more than 200 days until the digital transition, the cable industry is anxiously awaiting an FCC order that would automatically exempt some smaller cable systems from rules requiring them to pass along must-carry broadcasters’ digital SD and HD signals along with their analog signals post-transition. According to sources, the order has gone through some changes since first proposed by FCC chmn Kevin Martin in Apr, at ACA‘s DC Summit. The original plan would have only exempted systems that are 552Mhz and smaller from the FCC rules. NCTA, Charter, Mediacom and others have pushed to have systems with 5K subs or fewer included, telling the FCC that there may be too few customers to justify the additional costs necessary to carry digital signals. The commissioners appear ready to agree to an order that meets them halfway by providing an exemption for systems of 2,500 subs or fewer, sources said. One caveat: the order is expected to include a provision that requires systems qualifying for exemption to be owned by companies that have less than 10% of all cable subs. This requirement seems to be aimed at ensuring that the 2 largest US MSOs, Comcast and Time Warner Cable, aren’t able to benefit from the exemption. No word on exactly when the FCC will vote on the dual carriage exemption, but it’s expected to happen "soon." In other DTV transition news, ACA sent a letter to the FCC Tues formally registering its "strong support" of a petition to impose a quiet period between broadcasters and cable ops during the coming round of retrans consent negotiations, the goal being to prevent public confusion surrounding the coming Feb transition. NCTA has also voiced support of a quiet period that would prevent broadcasters from removing their signals from cable systems and require the parties to "maintain the status quo" for a short period of time. ACA has proposed that the quiet period be in effect until May 31. Following a Sen Commerce hearing last Oct, NCTA chief Kyle McSlarrow followed up with Sen Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) on questions about a quiet period. "It would not serve the public interest if consumers and cable operators were forced to contend with the potential or actual loss of broadcast stations at the same time as they were preparing for the digital transition," McSlarrow said in his written response. "And it would be a particularly odd result when cable operators are doing more to ensure carriage of broadcasters’ signals."

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Rosenworcel Warns EBB Program Abusers

FCC acting chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel told any providers that are making it difficult for consumers to sign up for the Emergency Broadband Benefit program to “knock it off” during a press conference

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