The FCC’s agenda for its meeting to be held on Wednesday, April 25, contains four separate items related to the digital television transition. The issue receiving the most press coverage is the proposal advanced by Chairman Martin that would require the cable carriage of television signals in both analog and digital formats until all cable subscribers have been transitioned to a digital cable format. As the item addressing this issue is a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, no final rules will be adopted this week. Instead, this will be an issue on which parties can comment, and will likely take the FCC quite some time to resolve. The agenda contains other items that may ultimately be just as important.
For consumers, the Commission will consider new rules on the labeling of television equipment – presumably to warn consumers that they may be buying a piece of analog television equipment that may not work after the February 2009 digital conversion. Another item will address other technical issues in the digital transition. The final item is not coming from the Media Bureau which usually considers broadcast matters, but instead from the FCC’s Wireless Bureau, which regulates the spectrum at Channel 52 and above (the so-called 700 MHz spectrum) which will be fully reclaimed from broadcasters for wireless services after the end of the digital television transition. The item will consider a number of issues on how operators in that spectrum will be able to operate as they come online. As there are already uses of that spectrum to provide media services, e.g. QualComm’s Media Flo technology about which we wrote here, and other wireless broadband uses are planned, broadcasters should monitor the developments that arise in this area as they may well affect the competitive environment in the years to come.