In comments responding to a recent petition requesting FCC authority for TV broadcasters and set makers to implement the ATSC 3.0 transmission standard, cable and satellite multichannel video program distributors (MVPDs) urged the FCC to act with caution as they advised that MVPDs should not be required to bear the costs associated with the ATSC 3.0 transition.  Striking a similar tone, public interest groups reminded the FCC that any rules governing the ATSC 3.0 transition should maintain the public interest obligations of broadcasters. 

Filed by a coalition consisting of the National Association of Broadcasters, the Consumer Technology Association, America’s Public Television Stations, and the Advanced Warning and Response Network Alliance, the petition asks the FCC to launch proceedings on proposed rules that would authorize ATSC 3.0 on a voluntary, market-based basis.  Touting the next-generation ATSC 3.0 standard as one that promises to deliver interactivity, ultra-high definition picture quality, mobile television broadcasting, and a variety of other advanced features, the petition asks the FCC to give broadcasters and electronics manufacturers the option of conducting simulcasts in DTV and ATSC 3.0 formats as ATSC 3.0 is developed and refined.  Although current DTV sets are not compatible with ATSC 3.0, the petition maintains that “no additional spectrum or government funds are required for the new standard, and consumers would have no equipment mandates.” 

As it stressed that the adoption of ATSC 3.0 should not result in increased costs of burdens for MVPDs and other industry stakeholders, DISH Network told the FCC it should “condition a station’s extension of DTV service to its entire designated market area.”  As the National Cable & Telecommunications Association added that cable operators “should not be burdened with new [broadcast signal] carriage obligations,” the American Cable Association warned that, “to the extent that retransmission of ATSC 3.0 signals would consume additional capacity on cable networks . . . requiring mandatory carriage of such signals could raise constitutional issues.”

Meanwhile, in joint comments, Public Knowledge, Common Cause and the Open Technology Institute at New America proclaimed that the debut of ATSC 3.0 “must not upend broadcasters’ statutory obligation to serve the public interest.”  As it argued that authorization of new standards such as ATSC 3.0 “may limit or preclude broadcasters from satisfying” local news, children’s programming and other statutory obligations, the groups noted that ATSC 3.0 “also offers the FCC an opportunity to renew and enhance broadcasters’ public interest mission that the Communications Act requires as a condition of broadcast licensing.”