Private Ops Want to Use CARS Spectrum

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Washington -- Cable interests want the Federal
Communications Commission to consider denying private cable operators cable-relay services
or awarding them secondary status.

In comments filed with the commission recently, the
National Cable Television Association and Time Warner Cable objected to a proposal made
last year by Optel Inc. requesting that the FCC open the 12-gigahertz frequency to private
cable operators.

Franchised cable operators are currently the only
authorized users of "Cable Antenna Relay Services," which operate at 12 GHz and
transmit video programming to places where cable transmission is impossible due to
geographic limitation.

"They should either be denied altogether or given a
secondary status," said Arthur Harding, an attorney at law firm Fleischman and Walsh,
based here, representing Time Warner. "They haven't demonstrated that they need
it."

Harding added that private operators already have access to
the 18-GHz frequency, and that the difference between the 18-GHz and 12-GHz frequencies is
minor.

"Where we can use 18 GHz, we will use 18 GHz,"
Optel vice president Michael Katzenstein said, "but there are entire marketplaces
where 18 GHz is not available." Optel is the largest private cable operator in the
United States.

The NCTA also said private operators should be limited to
secondary access to the 12-GHz frequency, if any.

"Cable operators use CARS to serve out franchise
obligations to entire communities," NCTA spokesman Neal Goldberg said. "Private
operators do not have that obligation and, therefore, they should be secondary."

Katzenstein -- who said Optel does have an obligation to
serve entire communities in some areas -- called secondary status insufficient.
"Secondary status is no status. No one is going to invest in bringing signal
distribution to a property if there is the risk later on that someone could come and shut
you off," he said.

NCTA comments also stated that private operators'
access to the 12-GHz frequency must not interfere with use by franchised operators.
Private operators must demonstrate that they do not intend to "hoard" the
frequency, the report stated.

"I think it's ridiculous to suggest that we would
hoard the frequency," Katzenstein said. "We would agree to any reasonable
regulatory restriction to protect against hoarding. Similar provisions have been put in
for the 18-GHz frequency."

Franchised cable operators' comments were made in
response to an FCC notice of proposed rulemaking issued July 14. Optel has until Sept. 20
to respond.

States News Service

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