Today the Commission takes several steps to help ensure that those consumers who cannot receive acceptable over-the-air signals from their local broadcast stations have a lawful alternative means to receive network programming via satellite under the Satellite Home Viewer Act. The Commission's ability to make significant changes in this area is constrained by the terms of the SHVA, which says that only those viewers who cannot receive an "over-the-air signal of grade B intensity" are considered "unserved" and therefore eligible to receive distant network signals. Thus, we could not, and have not, extended the SHVA to permit delivery of satellite network broadcast signals to consumers who can receive an adequate local over-the-air signal.
By our action today, however, we have created a more accurate method of identifying those consumers who are truly unserved within the meaning of the statute, and therefore eligible for satellite-delivered network programming. Our action will help not only those individual subscribers who, under other tests, might be considered to be "served" even though they cannot receive an acceptable television picture, but will better enable the DBS industry to become a true competitor to cable, which will help all consumers.
We have tried to be as aggressive as possible -- consistent with Congressional intent -- in protecting American consumers in this order. Some commenters urged that we take the additional step of changing the confidence factor in the predictive model that we endorse from 50% to 90%. If we believed that changing the predictive model to include a 90% confidence factor would ensure that more unserved households would be able to get satellite-delivered network signals, we certainly would have voted to make this change. Indeed, at first blush, the concept of a 90% confidence factor seems appealing. However, as discussed in the Report and Order, adopting a 90% confidence factor would not ensure more accuracy, but rather would significantly overpredict the number of unserved households, undermining Congress's intent in the statute. The model the Commission endorses in this order -- which includes a 50% confidence factor -- is a more sound predictor of who is actually served and unserved. Thus, it is more likely to be relied upon by the parties and in turn will likely result in fewer actual measurements having to be taken, which is, after all, the purpose of using a predictive model.
We have gone as far as we can under the SHVA to enable consumers to receive network programming via satellite. A more comprehensive solution to this problem -- including, for example, allowing delivery of local broadcast signals into local markets -- would require Congressional action. We look forward to working with Congress to facilitate robust competition between DBS and cable service providers, bringing more choices and lower prices in video programming to the American public, while not impairing the viability of over-the-air broadcasting.
We also call on the satellite and broadcast industries to cooperate in ensuring that consumers receive the service which they are entitled to receive under the SHVA.