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FCC Still Vetting Operator Answers

A spokeswoman for the Federal Communications Commission said Monday the FCC had received and was reviewing the responses from cable operators about moving channels from analog to digital—they were due Nov. 14—but that it was premature to speculate about what actions it might take against any operator who failed to provide all the information requested. That would include the nation's largest operator, Comcast.

The FCC is investigating complaints it says it got against 13 cable companies about moving channels from analog to digital. It sent out letters asking for information including the per-sub fees for channels being moved.. The FCC said it would keep that information confidential for competitive reasons, but the nation's largest cable operator, for one, did not supply that information because of the short time frame and the scope of the request, according to a source.

The FCC had no comment on any specific company's compliance. "We are in the process of reviewing the letters to determine if they answered all of the questions," said spokeswoman Edie Herman. "To the extent that answers were given to the questions asked, this will be determined on a case by case basis for each company that received a letter of inquiry," she said.

"There are any potential number of next steps that the Enforcement Bureau may decide to take in response to companies that chose not to answer all of the questions," she said, adding that it would be "premature" to speculate on what those actions might be.

The FCC gave teh 13 companies 14 days to answer the letters of inquiry and supply the data, but the Comcast source said the company had determined that just calculating and collecting data for 2008 would take 1,500 hours of work, and so did not provide per-channel pricing information, though the source said the company "stands ready to "meet with commission staff."

Herman said that all the questions were important, including about wether operators had given fair notice to customers of the channel moves as well as how much they charged per each channel moved. 

The Comcast source said that company provides notice to both customers and local franchising authorities about channel moves, and also generally offers a free digital set-top to cusomers for a promotional period after the channels are moved.

Comcast's response also talked about having to compete in a marketplace where new competitors like telcos do not have any legacy analog customers to migrate, and about needing to create space for HD channels, including the must-carry channels the FCC is requiring them to carry.