Broadcast Signals Must Be Carried on Cable

Never fear. After the digital conversion in February, cable systems must carry the same over-the-air broadcast signals for all customers. This is a new ruling from the FCC, as a result from the U.S. Court of Appeals.

According to the ruling sited in the Wall Street Journal, "cable operators must either switch to all-digital systems, or carry both the digital and analog signals of local stations in the first three years after the February 2009 conversion." This will benefit the folks who only have basic cable, which sometimes used analog signals, as opposed to the more bandwidth-efficient digital signal.

"Today's action preserves the commission's decision to protect consumers and prevents cable companies from either choosing to cut off signals of must-carry broadcast stations after the digital conversion, or requiring customers to purchase higher-priced packages with set-top boxes to receive the same analog channels in digital," said Kevin Martin, chairman of the FCC, in a statement.

Keep reading to see why some cable companies fought the ruling.

Since the analog signals take up more bandwidth, the operators objected because it would take up room that they can use for other programming. They also sited a First Amendment rights violation.

The court said it didn't see a single example of a system that isn't already using digital signals for local broadcasts, or were already heading towards that process. A judge said the FCC found that virtually all cable operators will have all-digital systems, so bandwidth would be free for them to use however they wish.

Seems like a logical solution — especially since the local stations are going digital as well. —Leslie Shapiro

The Wall Street Journal