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Kennard Urges HDTV Action

Federal Communications Commission chairman William Kennard
stirred the "fire-wire" waters last week, urging the cable and
consumer-electronics industries to "redouble efforts" to find a consensus on
remaining protocol definitions so that digital-TV and high-definition-television projects
can progress.

The letter went to National Cable Television Association
president Decker Anstrom and Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Electronics
Manufacturers Association.

"I call on your industries to work together to
complete a baseline 1394 specification," Kennard wrote, referring to the numerical
nomenclature for fire wire. "I recognize that ... trade-offs and compromises may be
required among industry members."

Kennard called for a baseline fire-wire specification by
Nov. 1.

Fire wire carries digital signals at high speed over the
three or so feet of cable connecting set-top boxes to in-home electronics, like TVs and
VCRs. While standards for the connectors on each end of the cable are mostly complete, one
vital piece is missing: the protocols that allow digital sets to receive HDTV pictures
even if cable boxes don't support all of the HDTV formats.

Kennard said he was committed to making the first
generation of digital-TV sets accept high-definition pictures, nothing that other options
besides fire wire existed to do so.

Richard Green, CEO of Cable Television Laboratories Inc.,
which is running OpenCable and related fire-wire projects, said last week that the
industry is committed to meeting Kennard's request.

CEMA officials were not available for comment at press