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Cable Technology Feature Article

October 09, 2008

Some TV Channels May Fade to Black in Some Areas

By Jessica Kostek, TMCnet Channel Editor

The stir from analog to digital has risen, making cable companies frantic to provide service to their customers prior to the government issued deadline.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) reported an increase in digital television (DTV) coupon requests that are affecting the retransmission consent dispute between LIN TV and Time Warner (News - Alert) Cable. LIN TV, in an attempt to gain negotiation leverage and higher retransmission fees from a cable provider, blacked out 15 of its stations to as many as 2.7 million homes in 11 markets this past week.
The NTIA reported the government agency responsible for distributing DTV convert coupons and certifying set top boxes in preparation for the February 17th, 2009 transition, has seen an increase in the number of coupon requests in Austin, Ft. Wayne, and Springfield -- three of the markets affected by LIN TV's disruption of service.
"News that LIN TV's decision to pull stations from as many as 2.7 million Time Warner Cable subscribers in 11 markets…is troubling," said ACA President and CEO, Matthew M. Polka. "But it is even more disconcerting to think that many of these requests are coming from customers who do not need converters and who otherwise would not have requested these coupons. LIN TV's decision to pull its signals is not only causing confusion, but it's also eating up limited resources for the DTV coupon program. A program, which, according to FCC (News - Alert) Chairman Kevin Martin, now runs the risk of running out of money. These disruptions of service around the time of the DTV transition might be needlessly costing taxpayers money and could be eliminating a limited supply of converter boxes from store shelves that are intended for consumers who really need them."
On October 2, 2008, LIN TV pulled its signals from Time Warner Cable and Bright House systems in Austin, Texas; Buffalo, N.Y.; Columbus and Dayton, Ohio; Ft. Wayne, Indianapolis and Terre Haute, Ind.; Green Bay, Wis; Mobile, Ala., and Springfield Mass.
"We urge the Chairman to immediately issue the retransmission consent quiet period rulemaking that will guard against these threats to a successful transition," continued Polka. "In light of the NTIA's comments, the issue should no longer be whether the quiet period should begin February 4, January 15, or December 15, but whether it should be implemented immediately, and certainly no later than December 15, to reduce further confusion and lessen the strain on the NTIA program. Every day we are not moving forward to establish a quiet period, we're increasing the chance of problems as we approach the transition. Disruptions in service, regardless of the cause, appear to cause a run on the governments' coupon program, which according to some is already over strained, and probably on converter boxes, too. Too much time and money has been dedicated to ensuring a successful transition to run that risk."

Jessica Kostek is a channel editor for TMCnet, covering VoIP, CRM, call center and wireless technologies. To read more of Jessica’s articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Jessica Kostek