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Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, FCC 00-83: Text | Word97

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Federal Communications Commission
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This is an unofficial announcement of Commission action. Release of the full text of a Commission order constitutes official action. See MCI v. FCC. 515 F 2d 385 (D.C. Circ 1974).

March 8, 2000
David Fiske (202) 418-0513


Washington - The FCC today began its first periodic review of the progress of conversion of the U.S. television system from analog technology to digital television (DTV).

In a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the Commission invited public comment on a number of issues that it said require resolution to insure continued progress in the DTV conversion and to eliminate potential sources of delay. The Commission said its goal is to insure that the DTV transition goes smoothly for American consumers, broadcasters and other interested parties.

This periodic review follows through on the conclusion, adopted by the Commission as part of its DTV construction schedule and service rules in the May 1997 5th Report and Order, that it should undertake a periodic review every two years until the cessation of analog service to help the Commission insure that the DTV conversion fully serves the public interest.

The Commission noted that broadcast stations are facing relatively few technical problems in building digital facilities, and that problems encountered by some stations with tower availability and/or local zoning issues do not seem to be widespread. However, it asked for comment on whether broadcasters are able to secure necessary tower locations and construction resources, and to what extent any zoning disputes, private negotiations with tower owners and the availability of tower construction resources affect the DTV transition.

In the NPRM, the Commission asked for comments on whether to adopt a requirement that DTV licensees replicate their NTSC service area, and whether a replication requirement should be based on the population or the area served by the station. The Commission noted that several licensees have sought authority to move their DTV station to a more central location in their market, or toward a larger market, or have asked to change their DTV allotment, including their assumed transmitter site and/or technical facilities, and it asked for comments on the effect that these situations have on the general replication requirements. In addition, the Commission asked for comments on a proposed requirement that DTV stations' principal community be served by a stronger signal level than that specified for the general DTV service contour.

The Commission asked for comments on what date stations with both their NTSC and DTV channels within the DTV core (channels 2-51) would have to choose the channel they intend to keep following the transition. It said that with the target date for the end of DTV transition set for December 31, 2006, it would be reasonable for stations to identify the DTV channels they'll be using not later than 2004.

It asked for comment on whether this date represents the proper balance between the goals of allowing DTV stations enough time to gain experience with DTV operation, and allowing stations that must move enough time to plan for their DTV channel conversion.

The Commission also invited comments on DTV application processing procedures, including whether to establish DTV application cut-off procedures, how to resolve conflicts between DTV applications to implement "initial" allotments, and the order of priority between DTV and NTSC applications. The Commission said it was seeking comment on whether to adopt a cut-off procedure for DTV area-expansion applications to minimize the number of mutually exclusive applications and to facilitate applicants' planning, and how to resolve any mutual exclusive applications that arise.

The Commission noted that concerns have arisen regarding the 8-VSB DTV transmission standard. It invited comment on the current status of this standard, including information on any additional studies conducted regarding NTSC replication using the 8-VSB standard. It specifically asked for comments on progress being made to improve indoor DTV reception under this standard, and manufacturers' efforts to implement DTV design or chip improvements.

The Commission noted recent industry agreements relating to cable compatibility, but said these agreements do not cover labeling of digital receivers, and asked whether a failure to reach agreement on the labeling issue would hinder the DTV transition. The Commission also asked for comments on the extent to which lack of agreement on copy protection technology licensing and related issues would also hinder the DTV transition.

Noting that some broadcasters have recommended that the Commission address over-the-air signal reception by setting receiver standards, the Commission asked for comments on whether the FCC has authority to set minimum performance levels for DTV receivers, whether it would be desirable to do so, and, if so, how such requirements should be structured.

In this "periodic review," the Commission said it was not asking for comment on issues which are the subject of a separate proceeding, such as the issue of digital broadcast signal carriage on cable systems, or requests for reconsideration of already-decided issues, such as eligibility issues, certain issues relating to public television, and channel allotment or change requests. The Commission also said it is too early in the transition to address certain other issues at this time, including reconsidering the flexible approach to ancillary or supplementary services and the application of the simulcast requirement. The Commission also said it would be inappropriate to review the 2006 target date because of Congressional action in the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 confirming December 31, 2006 as the transition completion date and establishing procedures and standards for stations seeking an extension of that date.

Comments are due May 17, 2000; reply comments are due June 16, 2000.

Action by the Commission March 6, 2000, by Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FCC 00-83).

- FCC -

MM Docket No. 00-39
Mass Media Bureau Contacts: Gordon Godfrey (202) 418-2190
Mania Baghdadi (202) 418-2120