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FCC knocks down EchoStar's two-dish solution

EchoStar Communications Corp. is forbidden by law to provide its customers
with local TV stations dispersed over two satellite dishes, the Federal
Communications Commission ruled Thursday.

The commission said EchoStar can offer local TV signals on a second dish, but
if the company chooses to do that, it must offer all of the local TV signals in
that market on one dish or the other. It cannot divide the TV signals between
two dishes, thereby disenfranchising any TV signals not carried on the main

"Today we took an important and necessary action to ensure that all broadcast
stations are carried in a nondiscriminatory manner. EchoStar's two-dish plan
was implemented in such a way as to make some stations unavailable to
subscribers as a practical matter," said Ken Ferree, chief of the FCC's Media

The agency ruled that EchoStar must implement the order immediately and tell
the commission what its course of action will be within 30 days.

The company must also file updated reports in three months and again in five

EchoStar always has said that the two-dish solution was an interim fix until it
could launch its two spot-beam satellites. One satellite has already been
launched, but it is still in testing phases. The other won't be launched
until later this year.

EchoStar representatives did not return calls by press time.