PITTSBURGH, October 9, 2008 - The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has reported an increase in DTV coupon requests in some markets affected by the retransmission consent dispute between LIN TV and Time Warner Cable. In an attempt to gain negotiation leverage and higher retransmission fees from a cable provider, LIN TV blacked out 15 of its stations to as many as 2.7 million homes in 11 markets this past week. It has been reported that NTIA, the government agency responsible for distributing DTV convert coupons and certifying set top boxes in preparation for the February 17th, 2009 transition from analog to digital television signals, has seen an increase in the number of coupon requests in Austin, Ft. Wayne, and Springfield - three of the markets affected by LIN TV's disruption of service.
"News that LIN TV's decision to pull stations from as many as 2.7 million Time Warner Cable subscribers in 11 markets may be causing a run on DTV coupons is troubling," said ACA President and CEO, Matthew M. Polka. "But it is even more disconcerting to think that many of these requests are coming from customers who do not need converters and who otherwise would not have requested these coupons. LIN TV's decision to pull its signals is not only causing confusion, but it's also eating up limited resources for the DTV coupon program. A program, which, according to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, now runs the risk of running out of money. These disruptions of service around the time of the DTV transition might be needlessly costing taxpayers money and could be eliminating a limited supply of converter boxes from store shelves that are intended for consumers who really need them."
"We urge the Chairman to immediately issue the retransmission consent quiet period rulemaking that will guard against these threats to a successful transition," continued Polka. "In light of the NTIA's comments, the issue should no longer be whether the quiet period should begin February 4, January 15, or December 15, but whether it should be implemented immediately, and certainly no later than December 15, to reduce further confusion and lessen the strain on the NTIA program. Every day we are not moving forward to establish a quiet period, we're increasing the chance of problems as we approach the transition. Disruptions in service, regardless of the cause, appear to cause a run on the governments' coupon program, which according to some is already over strained, and probably on converter boxes, too. Too much time and money has been dedicated to ensuring a successful transition to run that risk."
As recently as yesterday, Federal Communications Commission Chairman, Kevin Martin raised the possibility that the DTV-to-analog converter box coupon subsidy program could be running out of money. In an October 7th letter to House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell (D-MI) and Telecommunications & Internet Subcommittee Chairman Ed Markey (D-MA), Chairman Martin voices his concern that the NTIA may have underestimated the number of coupons it needed.
On October 2, 2008, LIN TV pulled its signals from Time Warner Cable and Bright House systems in Austin, Texas; Buffalo, N.Y.; Columbus and Dayton, Ohio; Ft. Wayne, Indianapolis and Terre Haute, Ind.; Green Bay, Wis,; Mobile, Ala., and Springfield Mass.
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Based in Pittsburgh, the American Cable Association is a trade organization representing 1,100 smaller and medium-sized, independent cable companies who provide broadband services for more than 7 million cable subscribers primarily located in rural and smaller suburban markets across America. Through active participation in the regulatory and legislative process in Washington, D.C., ACA's members work together to advance the interests of their customers and ensure the future competitiveness and viability of their business. For more information, visit www.americancable.org.
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