FCC Proposes to Extend HDTV Carriage Exemption

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The FCC has adopted a Fifth Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (Fifth FNPRM) that proposes to extend the Commission’s existing exemption from its material degradation rules that require cable systems to carry high definition (HD) television broadcast signals in HD format.  Specifically, the Commission proposes to continue to exempt small cable systems with 2,500 or fewer subscribers that are not affiliated with a cable operator serving more than 10 percent of all MVPD subscribers, and those with an activated channel capacity of 552 MHz or less, from the HD carriage requirement. The exemption from the material degradation rule allows such systems to carry broadcast signals in standard definition (SD) digital and/or analog format, even if the signals are broadcast in HD, as long as all subscribers can receive and view the signal.  The exemption was originally adopted in 2007 and was originally scheduled to expire on June 12, 2012.  In 2012, the Commission extended the exemption for three years to June 12, 2015.   The Fifth FNPRM tentatively concludes that an additional three year exemption for small cable systems would be warranted  in order to protect the subscribers of small cable systems from the costs and disruptions that may result from the loss of the exemption.  Comments in response to the Commission’s Fifth FNPRM are due 20 days following publication of the document in the Federal Register.  Reply comments are due 10 days later.

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