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ACA Urges FCC To Adopt Safeguards To Ensure Smooth ATSC 3.0 Transition

Unsupervised TV Stations Certain To Impose Heavy Costs On Smaller MVPDs

PITTSBURGH, May 9, 2017 -  Broadcasters' transition to new a transmission standard called ATSC 3.0 or "NextGen TV" poses particular harms to smaller video providers, necessitating Federal Communications Commission involvement to avoid financial and technical burdens, according to the American Cable Association.

"ACA members spend more than larger MVPDs to provide service on a per-subscriber basis.  And they have fewer resources to bring to bear than larger MVPDs.  For them, the transition to ATSC 3.0 presents particular challenges, and, in some cases, requires particularized solutions," ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said.

The shift to ATSC 3.0 will be complex, requiring industry cooperation to ensure a smooth transition to minimize consumer disruption. Allowing TV stations to control all aspects of the transition is certain to harm smaller multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) and their customers, ACA said in comments filed today with the FCC to supplement those filed by the American Television Alliance (ATVA).

To ensure a smooth transition respectful of the needs of smaller MVPDs and their customers, ACA urged the FCC to:

Require TV stations to conduct separate negotiations for carriage of ATSC 1.0 and ATSC 3.0 signals. This is the simplest way to prevent a broadcaster from conditioning carriage of ATSC 1.0 signals on initial carriage of ATSC 3.0 signals. The FCC also should prohibit broadcasters from enforcing clauses requiring ATSC 3.0 carriage in retransmission consent agreements entered into prior to any Order in this proceeding.  It should do so, in part, because longstanding language in existing agreements could be read to require ATSC 3.0 carriage -- even where such language dates from years before anybody had heard of ATSC 3.0

Require ATSC 1.0 simulcasts to be in the same format and with the same picture quality as today's transmissions. Broadcasters will face incentives to provide ATSC 1.0 simulcasts in lower format or with worse picture quality than they provide today -- and they may deliberately do so to "encourage" MVPDs to carry ATSC 3.0 signals.  Picture quality is a particular concern for small MVPDs, who are more likely to rely on off-air delivery than larger MVPDs, and have less means to obtain ATSC 1.0 signals in non-degraded format via "alternate means," such as fiber or DBS transport.

Address issues related to the over-the-air coverage of ATSC 1.0 simulcasts. Under the broadcasters' proposal, stations may choose to transmit ATSC 1.0 simulcasts from other stations' facilities. Simulcasts from other facilities may not reach MVPD headends, harming those who rely on off-air delivery. This particularly harms small MVPDs - and especially rural small MVPDs, who are more likely to lose service and can least afford to obtain delivery through alternate means.

Require broadcasters to reimburse small MVPDs for costs incurred to receive and transmit ATSC 1.0 simulcasts, even if the agency chooses not to do so for larger MVPDs. ATVA's comments described a variety of costs that multichannel video programming distributors will incur to receive and deliver ATSC 1.0 simulcasts - and explained why MVPDs will assume such costs involuntarily.  Those costs are especially problematic for small MVPDs. They relate to a video business that is increasingly unprofitable for small MVPDs.  And they preclude investments in broadband -- a service critical to small MVPD long-term survival (and which increasingly subsidizes small MVPD video service).

About the American Cable Association: Based in Pittsburgh, the American Cable Association is a trade organization representing nearly 750 smaller and medium-sized, independent cable companies who provide broadband services for nearly 7 million cable subscribers primarily located in rural and smaller suburban markets across America.  Through active participation in the regulatory and legislative process in Washington, D.C., ACA's members work together to advance the interests of their customers and ensure the future competitiveness and viability of their business.  For more information, visit http://www.americancable.org/

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