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FCC Posts Buy-Through Fact Sheet

The Federal Communications Commission Wednesday posted on its Web site ( a fact sheet related to the ability
of cable consumers to buy premium programming without having to purchase more
than the basic tier.

The three-page form, presented in question-and-answer format, explained that
under what's called the tier-buy-through rule, cable subscribers do not have to
subscribe to more than the basic tier in order to subscribe to premium networks,
such as Home Box Office and Showtime, and pay-per-view events.

The FCC noted that cable operators certified by the agency as subject to
effective competition within the meaning of the 1992 Cable Act are not covered
by the tier-buy-through prohibition.

The tier-buy-through rule became effective Oct. 5, 2002. The commission
received numerous calls from consumers and the media after some media reported
that the tier-buy-through prohibition was a quick and easy way for cable
subscribers to cut their monthly bills.

As expected, the FCC reiterated a previous ruling that premium networks that
sell themselves in a multiplex fashion remain premium services and are not to be
considered tiers not covered by the tier-buy-through prohibition.

FCC sources said the fact sheet also confirmed that cable operators that move
premium services from analog to digital transmission may require consumers to
obtain digital converters but may not require the purchase of
digital-programming tiers.