FCC to Rule on Cable Spectrum Plan

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The Federal Communications Commission is expected to decide May 16 whether
private cable operators may share spectrum currently reserved for franchised
cable operators for microwave transmissions.

A private cable firm called OpTel Inc. filed a request for access to the
spectrum in 1999. The company said cable exclusivity was a one-sided eligibility
restriction that should be eliminated.

OpTel was represented by current FCC Media Bureau chief Kenneth Ferree, who
has not participated in the rulemaking since joining the agency last year.

OpTel hopes access to the spectrum will make it more competitive with
incumbent cable operators.

Cable operators use the spectrum in the 12-gigahertz band to transmit
video-programming signals in areas of a franchise that contain features -- such
as rivers, mountains and rugged terrain -- that are not economical to wire.

In comments, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association did not
urge the FCC to reject OpTel's request. But the NCTA claimed that the FCC has
substantial technical and operational issues to resolve and it needs to ensure
that new users do not disrupt incumbent operations and do not warehouse
spectrum.

It's highly likely that the commission will adopt OpTel's plan because it has
scheduled a vote on the issue at its May 16 meeting. The agency rarely puts
proposals on its public agenda that it plans to dismiss.

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