Small cable operators ask FCC to kick the tires on ATSC 3.0 transition

FCC headquarters
The ACA wants new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to dig deeper into the “wide range of questions” on the ATSC 3.0 transition.

The American Cable Association is asking new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to press broadcasters on just how the transition to the new ATSC 3.0 standard will impact MVPDs.

In its politely worded letter to Pai, the ACA conceded that the chairman has already included a “wide range of questions” in a draft NPRM on the ATSC 3.0 transition. If enacted, this will enable broadcasters to begin voluntary rollout of the standard, provided they continue broadcasting regular programming in the current standard. 

But the ACA wants Pai to dig even deeper.

“The proposed transition, however, will also create ‘unique circumstances’ for small, rural and capacity-constrained MVPDs, including ACA members,” the ACA states. “Small MVPDs, for example, are uniquely vulnerable to broadcaster attempts to compel carriage of ATSC 3.0 signals. Rural MVPDs are uniquely susceptible to changes in broadcast service areas—both during the proposed transition and with respect to ATSC 3.0 transmissions. And capacity-constrained MVPDs will face unique burdens associated with the transition, particularly if forced to carry higher resolution ATSC 3.0 signals.”

RELATED: Sinclair CEO Ripley: ATSC 3.0 is going to ‘supercharge’ the broadcast business

So what does the ACA want to know?

For one, the group seeks comment on whether “small, rural and capacity-strained” MVPDs will receive broadcast signals over the air, or if they will come via alternative means, such as fiber or microwave delivery. Who will pay for such delivery? How will the FCC address “situations in which a small or rural MVPD that receives a broadcast station over the air before the transition can no longer do so during and after the transition?”

Further, the ACA asks, will MVPDs have to pay for such things as new CPE and headend equipment in order to deliver ATSC 3.0 signals to their customers?

The list of questions goes on and on.

The FCC is set to vote on the ATSC 3.0 NPRM on Feb. 23.