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The Senate version of a telecom rewrite is not exactly a gift to cable, but it is pretty darned friendly to the wired medium.

It holds telcos to more local franchise oversight than the phone companies would like, and than a House version of the bill did, and allowing cable to convert must-carry digital signals to analog, or HDTV to standard DTV.

That is a big win for cable, which wants to devote as much as of its pipe as it can to advanced services and feels that mandatory must-carry of DTV and HDTV signals is a government taking of that valuable real estate.

Broadcasters, understandably, were not pleased with the provision. But wait, there was more.

The bill was "silent" on multicast must-carry, a deafening, almost retaliatory, silence to broadcasters who see mandatory cable carriage of their multiple digital signals as key to their competitiveness in a multichannel world.

The bill also allows unlicensed wireless devices to operate in the broadcast band, which broadcasters are worried will mean interference to DTV signals.

Why the relative cable-friendliness and partial nose-thumb to broadcasters.

I have a theory, which I shall couch in vague terms in case I am out in left field stabbing at imaginary balls.

But here are some facts.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens, who motor-Senatored this bill, wanted a certain lobbyist of whom he was exceedingly fond to head a certain big broadcast association. When that didn't happen, he was not happy. I know, believe me, I know.

The certain lobbyist for a certain network then left to start his own lobby shop for clients including the cable industry.

Cable comes out smelling like a rose-like object in the Senate bill draft and broadcasters are left with a broadcast flag to salute, but a lot not to like.

By John Eggerton