Washington -- Officials at the Federal Communications
Commission said last Monday that they will consider opening cable-relay services to
private cable operators.
The announcement came one week before the industry's
final day for comment on an FCC notice of proposed rulemaking to allow PCOs to deliver
video programming over the 12-gigahertz frequency.
Franchise cable operators are currently the only authorized
users of "Cable Antenna Relay Service" stations, which are used to transmit
video programming in places where cable transmission is impossible due to geographic
The FCC issued its notice in July after Optel Inc., a PCO
based in Dallas, petitioned the commission last year to allow PCOs to use CARS
microwave-relay links to connect their buildings.
Officials said the primary goal of the notice was to
determine whether extending CARS eligibility to PCOs would generate industry competition.
"If amending the rules to allow PCOs to apply for CARS
licenses will promote competition, then we are in favor of it," FCC spokeswoman
Michelle Russo said. "We're examining it through this notice."
PCOs, which compete with authorized local cable franchises,
are currently required to transmit cable programming through wires and microwave
frequencies other than 12 GHz.
Optel, which is currently permitted to use the 18-GHz
frequency for cable transmission, is seeking access to the 12-GHz frequency as a matter of
efficiency and competition, company officials said.
"The 12-GHz frequency is a more robust frequency than
18 GHz," Optel vice president Mike Katzenstein said. "It provides more
bandwidth, and it will allow Optel to increase the number of both digital and analog
channels in its video lineup."
Katzenstein added that FCC action on the issue was long
"It's been two years since we initially required
the use of the frequency," he said. "We'd like to see the commission
acknowledge that there is no logical basis for the existing rule."
In addition to studying whether granting CARS-frequency
licenses to PCOs will generate competition, the notice will also study possible approaches
to deregulation. The notice requests input on eligibility criteria for prospective CARS
Because franchise cable operators may not select their
customers like PCOs do, the level of private access must be carefully determined, the
The FCC is also seeking comment on whether expanded CARS
eligibility would interfere with the current use of microwave links by existing licensees.
Industry comments are due today (Aug. 16).
States News Service