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2/09/2009 2:00 AM Eastern

NCTA: Funds for 'Unserved'

Washington — The National Cable & Telecommunications Association joined with consumer-rights group Free Press to urge that the money set aside for broadband in the Obama administration's economic-stimulus package be focused on developing networks in “unserved” areas.

In a Feb. 4 letter to Senate leaders, NCTA president and CEO Kyle McSlarrow and Free Press policy director Ben Scott said Congress should “adopt refinements to the legislation that will clarify legislative intent,” to ensure the funds are targeted to construction of “robust facilities in unserved areas.”

“The broader objective should be to use scarce resources judiciously to maximize and modernize the reach of our network infrastructure,” the letter said.

The House version of the package specifies that broadband grants go to both “unserved” and “underserved” communities, and would require the Federal Communications Commission to define those terms within 45 days after the legislation is enacted.

McSlarrow and Scott also said the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration should be the sole agency in charge of doling out grants for broadband networks included as part of the sweeping economic-stimulus plan pending in Congress.

The House two weeks ago approved an $820 billion version of the package, with about $6 billion tagged for broadband grants that would be administered by NTIA and the Department of Agriculture's rural utilities program. The still-pending Senate bill includes $7.5 billion for broadband grants handled through NTIA.

“By selecting NTIA to coordinate and administer the distribution of grant funds, the [Senate] bill correctly recognizes the value of this agency's expertise in communications matters and avoids the potential confusion and inconsistencies that might result were the program split among multiple agencies,” McSlarrow and Scott wrote in a jointly signed letter addressed to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the Republican leader.

— Todd Spangler

HBO Sets First '09 PPV Bout

New York — Home Box Office will kick off its 2009 pay-per-view boxing lineup with a May 2 junior welterweight battle between Manny Pacquiao and Ricky Hatton, according to HBO.

Both fighters are coming off huge PPV performances: Pacquiao's Dec. 6 technical knockout win against Oscar De La Hoya drew some 1.25 million buys, while Hatton's 2006 fight against now retired Floyd Mayweather drew 800,000 buys.

“Pacquiao-Hatton will be one of the biggest PPV events of 2009 — it's the sport's pound-for-pound king taking on the sport's 140-pound king, two of the sport's biggest and most exciting stars facing off in a true fight fan's fight,” said Mark Taffet, HBO senior vice president of sports operations. “It's a true megafight that is clearly worth the PPV customer's hard-earned money.”

— R. Thomas Umstead

Bio, History Enhance Black History Web Sites

New York — Bio.com and History.com are beefing up their respective Black History mini-sites this month, with more content and video.

Bio.com will add a section devoted to the Apollo Theater on its www.Bio.com/blackhistory site, including an interactive timeline, a tour of the 75-year-old theater and biographies of legends that performed there.

Also featured on the site will be enhanced biographies of famous African-Americans and an interactive timeline of the African-American experience.

History.com's www.history.com/blackhistory site is offering its own multimedia timeline covering key milestones from slavery to President Obama's historic election.

The site will also feature maps detailing significant locations in African-American history and short-form videos, including a special section with video of Obama's speeches.

“Our Black History Month features on both sites are another great example of how we continue to superserve our audiences wherever they are by developing innovative content that entertains, informs and extends their experience with our brands from TV to online,” said Paul Jelinek, senior vice president of digital media for A&E Television Networks.

— R. Thomas Umstead

Doyle Joins RCH Board

Moorestown, N.J. — RCH Cable said former Comcast Eastern Division president Michael Doyle has joined its board of directors.

RCH, which provides outside sales, acquisition and retention services to cable operators, said Doyle would help it identify and strategize new in-home and in-the-field sales, retention and collections programs for cable operators.

Doyle left Comcast last summer after the company realigned divisions and installed former Midwest division chief William Connors as the Eastern division's top executive.

September