No Timetable for ATSC 3.0 Decision

WASHINGTON — In what would be some good news for smaller and midsized cable operators, Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler has not committed to meet a broadcaster-requested timetable for a decision on rolling out a new broadcast transmission standard.

Broadcasters have been pushing the FCC to act by Oct. 1 on their petition to adopt the ATSC 3.0 transmission standard on a market-by-market basis.

The next-generation system would allow for interactivity, ultra high-definition, advanced emergency alerts, more channels in the same bandwidth, mobile broadcast TV, and datacasting — all ways for broadcasters to remain competitive in a multiplatform world.

Cable operators, concerned about the impact of adopting the standard, don’t want the FCC to rush into anything.

Pressed during a congressional oversight hearing, Wheeler said he wasn’t exactly sure where the FCC was in reviewing the petition, and so could not commit to the deadline. The FCC would first meet “serially” with stakeholders before making an informed decision, he said.

Among those stakeholders are members of the American Cable Association, which represents small, independent MSOs. The ACA asked the FCC to go slow and consider the “significant new capital outlays and reduced capacity on cable systems that could have been used for other programming or for broadband Internet capacity.”

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.