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House Bill Targets EchoStar's Two-Dish Plan

House legislation in draft form would generally prohibit EchoStar Communications Corp. from requiring subscribers to use two dishes to receive all of their local TV signals, overturning a policy set by the Federal Communications Commission in early 2002.

The provision would have a broad impact on EchoStar, which provides local signals in 110 markets, including 40 where second dishes are required.

The National Association of Broadcasters pushed for the change, arguing that failing to offer all stations on one dish was discriminatory.

However, the FCC allowed the use of two dishes after EchoStar agreed to furnish the second dishes without charge and to comply with other consumer-awareness measures.

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, said at a hearing Thursday that under his draft bill, EchoStar would have 180 days of enactment to comply with a one-dish rule, and it could get a limited waiver if moving to one dish would force the direct-broadcast satellite firm to abandon a market.

EchoStar senior vice president and general counsel David Moskowitz testified that a one-dish mandate would be disruptive to millions of Dish Network subscribers, frustrate EchoStar's plan to add 40 new local-TV markets in 2004 and reduce competition to cable.

Moskowitz added, "Millions of consumers currently receiving local channels" would need new dishes that are large enough to receive local-TV signals that are transmitted from different satellites.