The cable industry said a broadcaster-sponsored plan to end the digital-television transition would impose set-top costs on cable customers that could run as high as $28 billion.
"This multibillion-dollar tax on cable customers is wholly unnecessary," National Cable & Telecommunications Association president Robert Sachs said in a Dec. 9 letter to Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Powell.
The NCTA was responding to a TV-broadcaster plan that would deny cable systems the right to downgrade digital-TV signals to analog at the headend. The broadcaster plan would effectively require cable to provide a digital set-top for every analog-TV set or to carry each TV station in both analog and digital.
"There is simply no need to force cable customers to spend billions of dollars on converter devices designed to enable them to view the same thing they receive today on the same television set," Sachs added. "So this `alternative' is no alternative at all."
Sachs also dismissed broadcasters' claim that consumers with digital-TV sets would lose access to their digital programming if cable were allowed to downconvert at the headend. Sachs said the HD signals of 450 TV stations are currently carried on cable, and digital-TV-set owners would not lose access to them in the future.
"There is no reason to expect these choices to diminish over time and every reason to expect that competition will spur cable operators to add more HD programming if capacity allows," Sachs said.
As for the broadcast plan, he added, the FCC "should not adopt it."