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Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20554
News media information 202 / 418-0500
Fax-On-Demand 202 / 418-2830
Internet: http://www.fcc.gov
TTY: 202/418-2555

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).

February 23, 2000

News Media contact:
David Fiske (202) 418-0513

Statement of FCC Chairman William Kennard:
Industry Agreement Will Jump Start Digital Television

Today's announcement of industry agreement on digital TV technical standards will jump start the digital revolution for television. It means that Americans are one giant step closer to enjoying digital television over their cable systems. Consumers will be able to receive the benefits of digital programming on their digital TV sets from both over-the-air broadcast stations and cable systems.

In January, I urged the industries to accelerate and complete negotiations to resolve four major issues that were delaying digital television sets that connect directly to the cable system, and, therefore, the transition to digital TV: (1) a lack of technical standards for direct connection of digital TV receivers to digital cable television systems; (2) a lack of agreement on how to provide tuning and program schedule information to support on-screen program guides for consumers; (3) a lack of agreement on the labeling of TV sets without two-way digital connections to other consumer electronic devices; and (4) a lack of agreement on licensing terms for copy protection technology.

I am pleased that the Consumer Electronics Association and the National Cable Television Association have today announced their industries' agreement on two of these issues: the direct connection technical standards and the program guide issues. These were the issues that were holding up DTV set production. Taking into account the lead-time required for TV set manufacturing, this will allow consumers to buy digital cable-ready sets by Christmas-time next year.

This is great news for consumers and for the development of digital television.

It is important to note that this agreement only addresses standards for cable transmissions, and nothing in the agreement changes or affects industry standards for digital signals received over-the-air by broadcast stations.

I believe that the marketplace usually provides the best solutions to issues involving technical standards. After over five years, however, a marketplace solution was long overdue. So last month, I stated that if the industry could not reach agreement, I would recommend that the Commission write rules to protect the public and speed the digital TV transition. Proposed rules on FCC-imposed compatibility are currently pending before the FCC.

Because of today's developments, I will recommend to my fellow Commissioners that proposed rules on the technical standards and program guide issues be removed from consideration but that we continue to review proposed rules on the two remaining issues.

Industry negotiations are continuing on the two-way set labeling and the copy protection issues. The labeling issue will determine how consumers will be informed about whether their digital TV set connects to other digital appliances, such as an advanced set-top box or a digital VCR. The copy protection issue relates to the licensing terms applied to copy protection technology, and equipment to implement it. These two issues are very important to consumer enjoyment of digital television, and I urge the parties to continue to work toward a marketplace solution in these areas as well.

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