[opendtv] Why can't we get the story straight?
- From: Craig Birkmaier <craig@xxxxxxxxx>
- To: opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Sat, 5 Mar 2005 09:13:21 -0500
At 10:54 AM -0500 3/4/05, John Shutt wrote: >Could someone please point me to a single document that shows the FCC ever >intended CABLE to convert to digital along with OTA television? The FCC never had to tell cable to go digital. The benefits were obvious. Cable did have several seats at the ACATS table and there were ACATS and ATSC working groups with the specific mission of harmonizing the standards being developed for terrestrial digital broadcast, DBS and digital cable. You might want to consider how 16VSB came about - this modulation standard was developed specifically for cable as a way to develop dual DTTB/Cable receivers. The cable industry said thanks, but no thanks, there are more efficient and cheaper technologies for the protected spectrum of a cable system. If you really want to understand why cable spent $70 billion for digital upgrades, just look up in the sky. They were driven by competition. Not from terrestrial broadcasts, but from the death stars above. Then the Internet happened, and cable saw the opportunity to use a common distribution infrastructure to deliver the Triple Play: 1. Traditional multi-channel TV service via the analog tier; 2. New digital TV services - more channels, NVOD and VOD; 3. New digital services including cable modems and VoIP. > >Why did we undertake this transition in the first place? To free up >spectrum for resale to wireless service providers. Period. More hysterical revisionism. Let's weave together several recent threads and look at the big picture (not HD). First and foremost, the underlying motivation has always been about the spectrum. As we have discussed many times, this has manifested itself in many ways over the years. But it would be incorrect to believe that this was all planned in advance. Opportunism is the driving force behind the digital transition for ALL of the key players, although in many cases - especially for terrestrial broadcasters - this has been manifested in the form of an opportunity to control and delay the transition, rather than building a new business as cable and DBS have done. Broadcasters have ALWAYS been protective of the incredibly lucrative spectrum franchise they were given, and for good reasons; 1. They are incredibly wasteful with the spectrum resource. As i have been arguing with Bert for some time now, the NTSC model, with big high powered sticks, leaves vast geographic areas where the spectrum cannot be re-used because of potential interference between markets. This fact is perceived as a huge BENEFIT by broadcasters, as it limits competition (from potential new broadcasters). And it is perceived as a huge negative by greedy politicians and other spectrum users who would like to get their hands on some of this beach front property. 2. The franchise has evolved to afford marketplace advantage to spectrum users based in the concept that it is in the public interest to protect broadcasters from competition. Must carry was bubbling up at the same time as Advanced Television. In the early '80s several emerging technologies began to bubble up. 1. Perhaps the most important was the ability to distribute TV content via satellite. This enabled cable to offer more programming choice, allowing them to do an end run around the broadcast oligopoly. 2. Enhanced and High Definition television. By the early '80s NHK and Sony were trying to drum up support for what they believed would replace NTSC and PAL, the 1125/60 HDTV system. Others were working on methods to improve NTSC and PAL in a compatible manner. As some members of this list have pointed out (Dale Kelly I think), the original Advanced Television work in the U.S. was focused on compatible enhancements. One of the leading contenders in this area was the enhanced NTSC system developed by Yves Farudja. Farudja understood that NTSC was ALSO inefficient in its use of the 6 MHz channel, and that it is possible to put more information into the spectra of the NTSC signal without interference in existing receivers. His system may well have succeeded, were it not for "spectrum politics." In this context, broadcasters were beginning to examine ways in which they could enhance the delivered quality of their product; but there was no compelling reason to actually do something, until... The Land Mobile threat. In the mid '80s, under pressure from interests who needed spectrum to deliver new (or to expand) wireless telecommunications services, the FCC proposed that broadcasters share the spectrum that they were using inefficiently. The FCC proposed that the taboo channels could be used for telecommunications without interference into the channels actually being used for TV broadcasts. Some two decades later, the FCC is now moving forward with this idea again, issuing a NPRM on broadcast spectrum sharing in 2004. This was the motivation that broadcasters needed to move forward with advanced television. As Mark Schubin points out, the plan was not to free up spectrum, but rather to use more of it in a compatible way to enhance the NTSC service - 6 MHz for NTSC and 6 More for the analog HD enhancement signal. When the FCC created the Advisory Committee on Advanced Television Services (ACATS) in 1987, as part of the first R&O on advanced television, they were NOT trying to free up spectrum, they were considering locking it up even tighter. In the end, that is exactly what happened, but a few things changed along the way - a testament to opportunism. By 1987 interest in HDTV was NOT starting to wane...it was starting to grow. In part because Japan was already doing it with Muse, in part because U.S. broadcasters were using it as their Trojan Horse to protect NTSC, and in part because Japan's competitors in the global CE market were concerned that Japan could establish the next big TV standard. European interests settled on the embrace and kill strategy. "We'll do our own HDTV system thank you very much." They did, they "proved" that there was no market for it, and they killed HD in Europe for another decade. Much the same was expected in the U.S. Broadcasters would tie up the spectrum to offer an HD system that would be compatible with NTSC. Most broadcasters never expected that they would need to do anything other than squat on the beach. The interest in HD actually began to wane AFTER the decision in the U.S. to go digital. Europe managed to kill the threat and decided to use digital broadcasting to take full advantage of the digital (ITU-R BT.601) upgrades that most European broadcasters invested in between 1987 and 1993. While some do not consider this to be an upgrade to PAL, in reality digital component video delivers most of the benefits of HDTV, especially when the screen size is smaller than 40 inches, which STILL represents about 99% of the consumer TV market in Europe. It was not the legislature that got on the DTV bandwagon, when they realized that the technology would ultimately allow for the recovery of some spectrum, it was the FCC. After the GI demonstrations the FCC issued another R&O in the advanced television process in 1992, proclaiming that the system would be digital and that broadcasters would get just 6 MHz; after a "transition period in which they would be loaned a second channel, the analog service would be retired and the spectrum re-packed to free some up for the greedy politicians to auction. At the time there was no Congressional authorization for this proposal. As this was still a development process under ACATS and the ATSC there was no immediate need for such legislation. By 1995 when the ATSC standard had been tested and ACATS recommended it to the FCC, the process moved to Congress. The authorization was bundled in with the re-write of the Communications Act in 1996. The FCC then issued the final R&Os beginning the DTV transition. It took broadcasters only three months to render those orders meaningless, with the 85% rule in the Balanced Budget Ac of 1997. To date, not a single Hz of broadcast spectrum has been vacated. Congress will "try again" with the Telecommunications Act of 2006. So yes, it's all about spectrum. Keeping it out of the hands of would be competitors, while broadcasters rely on must carry and re-transmission consent to protect one of the most lucrative franchises ever granted by a government. Regards Craig ---------------------------------------------------------------------- You can UNSUBSCRIBE from the OpenDTV list in two ways: - Using the UNSUBSCRIBE command in your user configuration settings at FreeLists.org - By sending a message to: opendtv-request@xxxxxxxxxxxxx with the word unsubscribe in the subject line.
Other related posts:
- » [opendtv] Why can't we get the story straight?
- » [opendtv] Re: Why can't we get the story straight?