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McSlarrow Pushes Blanket Dual-Carriage Exemption for Small Operators

National Cable & Telecommunications Association president Kyle McSlarrow is pushing the Federal Communications Commission to grant a blanket exemption to smaller, bandwidth-constrained cable systems from its rule requiring cable operators to carry must-carry TV stations in both analog and digital, where necessary, after the Feb. 17, 2009, switch to digital.

The NCTA initially asked for the blanket exemption, but the FCC instead said it would consider granting waivers on a case-by-case basis, while also saying it would consider further relief for smaller operators.

In letters to all five commissioners Tuesday, McSlarrow said the further relief should come in the form of the blanket exemption.

"NCTA continues to strongly support an outright exemption from this dual-carriage obligation for a limited group of systems," he wrote, "namely those with channel capacity of 552 megahertz or less or with 5,000 or fewer customers … Such action will allow these systems to provide each must-carry station’s signal to customers without incurring unnecessary, burdensome costs and without having to use their evident limited channel capacity for duplicative signals.”

The American Cable Association, which represents smaller operators, pointed not only to the bandwidth constraints of complying with the new rules, but to the legal expenses of having to seek individual waivers.