Published by: Larry Bloomfield & Jim Mendrala
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January 22, 2001 

Tech Note – 071 

Sharing experiences, knowledge, observations or anything relating to Digital Television, Digital Cinema, etc. with fellow engineers and readers is our purpose. Our mission statement, other relative information and this current issue of the Tech-Notes is now posted on our website. You can also find all our past issues there as well. We’ve had over 4750 visitors since July 1st, 2000. Thanks. We are growing. We now have over 980 subscribers. Thanks to our regulars and welcome to the new folks. This is YOUR forum!

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Subject: Reader InputA chance to voice your opinion!

From:  Victoria Battison

I enjoyed this latest Tech-Notes (#70)- it was a bit long, though, since I attempted to read the entire thing in one sitting! Very informative.

Thanks for helping me stay up to date.


From: Gene J. Zimmerman Jr., Cobalt Digital Inc.
RE: Tech-Note #70

Larry and Jim, Nicely done!  Thanks,

Gene J. Zimmerman Jr., President, Cobalt Digital Inc.

(Ed. Note: We like it when others toot our horn!)


Subject: The “Kennard FCC’s” Parting Shots and more
By: Larry Bloomfield

It was less than a week ago that we put out the last Tech-Notes (# 70), with its stories and predictions as to what might happen in the “last days/hours” of the Kennard FCC. As is stated in our charter: “We publish when there is something to share,” so here’s what has happened since – sorry it’s a long one again.

Kennard’s leaving office last Friday (January 19, 2001), along with the rest of the bureaucrats trying to make some kind of “dent,” may have been frantic, but anyone who has been with a dying person knows that their efforts, flailing and the like, seldom have a significantly lasting effect or impression. Very likely, that is the case here!

One story headline read: “Cable Companies Win One in the High-Definition TV War,” WASHINGTON, Jan. 19 , 2001. And my question is: “But did they really?”  What this headline was referring to is the eleventh hour, fifty-nine minutes and fifty-eight second decision by the Kennard FCC to deny television stations the right to force cable companies to their carry both their digital and analog signals. The operative word here is “BOTH.” We’ll get back to this later on in this report!

Washington speculators expect this decision to be upheld by regulators appointed by the next administration, but then may be not!

It is expected that all this will be formally announced today (Monday, Jan. 22nd.). Kennard has long held the position that the requirement to carry both analog and digital signals from the same source is probably unconstitutional. Not terribly surprising was the support of this decision by the agency's two Republican commissioners, Harold W. Furchtgott- Roth and Michael K. Powell, the leading candidate to be the
next chairman.

The dual-must carry issue is only part of a larger regulatory package that addresses a number of issues surrounding the quagmire and delays in conversion to digital television including a proposed rule that would phase in requirements for television set manufacturers to produce sets with dual receive capabilities: both analog and digital.

Despite all the serious flaws, problems and basic inferiority of 8VSB, when compared to other transmission systems, it appears that the last ditch efforts of the Kennard FCC were to put their heads further where the sun doesn’t shine and reaffirmed the agency's commitment to 8VSB as the air transmission system for digital signals.

Probably the most critical issue addressed is the interpretation and application of the must-carry rules as they apply to “digital” broadcasters. The 1992 Cable Act, simply put, requires cable operators to carry all full power stations of broadcasters within their homogenous area.

Cable companies have long lost their prospective of why they came into being; delivery of over the air signals into areas within a television stations area of influence, but where their signal penetration was difficult or impossible for viewers to receive those signals.  Opting to carry only the more popular and lucrative over the air stations, cable companies have challenged the constitutionality of the must-carry rules, saying that forcing them to transmit the programming of the networks violated their First Amendment rights, but in 1997, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the must-carry rules. By doing so, the court said that any must-carry provisions must be narrowly tailored to satisfy a compelling state interest.

While the FCC is allegedly an independent agency; an agency that “works for congress,” it is the Office of Management and the Budget (OMB) that has exercised executive control over any regulation or proposed regulation that would affect federal information-gathering or end user costs.  They are particularly vigilant about forms that request information.  This has survived several rounds of court challenges.

Where does this fit in?  The Reagan administration wielded that power rather widely to modify or trash proposed regulations they took issue with.  It’s a simple process: If a regulation doesn’t get OMB approval, it cannot be published in the Federal Register.  If the regulation isn’t published in the Federal Register, it doesn’t become effective, so good by to any unwanted regulation and this would include any FCC regulations, as well.

In addition to this, one of President GW’s first acts was to “stay” all pending federal regulations. This along will buy the new administration time for anything it doesn’t particularly cotton too.

It would be foolhardy to believe that this was done sole because President GW has a profoundly burning interest in anything to do with these late night FCC decisions. It is more likely that his reasons stem from Clinton’s rash of Executive orders in the closing days that took millions of acres of land out of potential productive use. Our new President is more likely concerned with reversing these, with the “blanket order” having its side effect and put some January molasses on the whole works. Although this will certainly slow the FCC boondoggles down, it is quite possible that President GW may not have the authority to squash their ditch-efforts all together; that will be left to Michael Powell and the new commissioner that will change the political party balance on the commission.

The path to the FCC has been well trodden by broadcast executives and their lobbyists in their efforts to get the must-carry rules expanded to apply to both analog and digital signals, blaming the slow transition to digital television, in part, on the reluctance of the cable industry to provide channels for both analog and digital signals.

Remember earlier on in this article I emphasized the term BOTH? Friday (1/19/01) will be remembered as an unheralded milestone in digital broadcast history.  It was then that the FCC said broadcasters basically had a choice. In a case filed by WHDT-DT, a digital (only) television station based in Stuart, FL, they ruled that broadcasters could either have their digital or analog signal carried under the must-carry rule, but not both.

Nothing was said how WHDT-DT’s signal would be handled by the cable company.  Since there are less than 100,000 total digital TV sets in use in this country and a darn sight less than that in the Stuart, FL’s DMA, one can not help but ask, who’s going to watch them if the signal is purely digital all the way.  Perhaps the cable company will provide a converter so that the preponderance of legacy analog sets will have the benefit of the WHDT-DT signal.

In their continued attempts at trying to force the “let the marketplace decide” way of doing business down our throats, the agency will leave it up to cable viewer which type of signal they want to watch. Another nail in the deregulation edifice. Cable companies and the broadcasters would have to “negotiate” the terms of any arrangements under which a station could have both its analog and its digital signal transmitted.

Those familiar with the Tech-Notes know that we’ve not been cables biggest supporters.  It really doesn’t seem fair to ask the cable industry to carry the duopoly of analog and digital signals with the same programming on both, but as Harry Truman once said, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” What may be a short term inconvenience for cable, will prove to serve the best interests of the public during the transition. Viewers on cable systems don’t buy digital sets because they can’t use them on present cable systems.  If the signals were fed in a digital format, the analog sets would be out in the cold. Until adaptors are readily available and we get further down the line, only then can the cable industry expect to get some of their wire-bound spectrum back.

The duopoly of analog and digital cable must carry appears to be the only logical way to hasten the transition to digital broadcasting, and that anything short of such rules could retard the already slow transition by many years. When figures show that two-thirds of the nation's television viewers subscribe to cable, there appears to be no other choice and the FCC had better wake up to that fact or they can kiss terrestrial television goodbye.

In a not so valid claim, cable operators have also maintained that to the extent they are forced to offer dual channels for the same analog and digital programming, that would limit the choices they could offer viewers.

In wrapping up this story, if logic doesn’t begin to prevail and the interests of the viewing public are not brought back to their obvious place of importance, you can keep an eye out for many changes to take place in the coming year.  Dusting off the old crystal ball, lets do some speculating.  If something isn’t done to give DTV a transfusion, it may well spell out the end of local broadcasting as we know it. This will require some collaboration between the new FCC and Congress. You can expect to see an increase in the broadcast ownership cap, or quite possible the total elimination of the cap. Who then will own the stations? – Big brother?

Next look for the elimination of penetration requirements for the recovery of the NTSC spectrum. Some Washington wags were touting a report that the FCC might extend the recovery date to 2008, in return for elimination of the 85% penetration requirements. The safe money is on the date NOT being extended but the 85% requirement WILL be eliminated.

The results of these manipulations will, undoubtedly, cause the value of smaller stations to dive like particles in a black hole, allowing for the consolidation of broadcast properties into the hands of a few large station groups/networks. You can then expect to see regional operational centers spring up in larger markets that feed the “less important” population centers’ transmitters. The FCC has all but eliminated the requirement for a station to be located in the market it serves. This concept has already begun and can only intensify.  Ask the ten people who recently got laid off at the NBC O&O in Birmingham, AL when the Miami NBC O&O took over many of their duties.

Will free over the air broadcasting survive?  That is yet to be seen. The station groups may decide to cut deals with cable and DBS and simply forget about DTV.  Or they may go back to Congress, admit that the ATSC standard was a failure and cut a new deal in the name of preservation of free TV.

And yet the whole kit and caboodle could soon come to a head and an entirely new approach to spectrum management replace broadcasting as we know it.

My engineering background makes me a very strong conservative when it comes to the broadcast industry and I hate to see any change except for the better, but you can take it to the bank, change is inevitable and it will come.  You can bet it will be an E-coupon ride if there ever was

Subject: Picture Quality vs. Transmission
By: Jim Mendrala

With all of the hoopla about “must carry”, I have to say that if the FCC really wants to promote digital television then there are really two matters to be dealt with. One is the  picture quality the other the transmission standard.

A lot has been written about 8VSB and COFDM. Which should be allowed for the broadcaster? These arguments are very compelling and in my opinion tend to favor the COFDM approach, which the rest of the world seems to agree on. In both cases the picture quality is the same.

The main compression system for DTV is MPEG. It is an ISO standard and everyone is using it for broadcasting. The problem that has come up is that many broadcasters are taking their NTSC or SDTV signals and are up converting them to HDTV. Panasonic, for example, is touting their Universal Format Converter (UFC). It does a great job but just like the Terenex, you can’t make something sharper if it is not there to start with. NTSC up converted to HDTV looks as soft as NTSC. About the only thing one gains is the reduction of visible scan lines. But all HDTV ready TV sets do this now anyway. The picture of an SDTV or NTSC image is still soft compared to a true HDTV signal. Since most DTV sets are displaying better resolution than a conventional analog TV set, the net result is that the up converted images are soft.

The broadcaster should realize that, unlike NTSC, the display device is no longer under his control. In an NTSC system, the signal must be 525 scan lines and the color must be carried on a subcarrier that interleaves with the aural sound carrier that is 4.5 MHz above the visual carrier in order to be transmitted. In the DTV system, the numbers of scan lines that are viewed are done at the display. A 525 line 30 fps interlace image can be displayed at 60 fps in a progressive mode with either 720, 960 or 1080 scan lines. The display device upon uncompressing the MPEG bit stream makes that determination, not the broadcaster. The receiver is no longer the concern of the broadcaster. In order for his station to stay ahead of the others, I would think that he’d want to be broadcasting the best picture he can generate. That means he should be switching over to HDTV. Then the viewers will see sharp pictures not soft pictures.

Some of the DVD player manufacturers have discovered that a progressive 480 output of a DVD image to a progressive display looks much better than the traditional composite NTSC signal over a modulated RF channel 3 or 4. As a side note, movies on all DVD’s are progressively scanned in the Telecine. If there are no 30 fps signals, the MPEG encoder encodes the 24 fps by removing the 3:2 sequence that was inserted to convert the 24 fps signal to a 30 fps signal. It then MPEG encodes the 24 fps into an MPEG bitstrem. Upon decoding of the MPEG bit stream, the images are then converted to the expected display device. At this time, it is mostly converted to 30 fps, 60 fields, interlaced. Some of the newer DVD players have a 480p output also that can output the MPEG images at 480p also. When DVD players become available in HDTV, then there will be several outputs to extend the versatility of the DVD players. The point is that the display is no longer connected to the structure of the capture end. Low-resolution images like SDTV or NTSC will be just that, low resolution. Today most viewers view the images on their NTSC analog TV set through an RF connection. True, a few viewers have used the composite or S video output from the DVD players but that at this time is the exception rather than the rule, as most people want the simplest way to connect things up.

If the FCC demands that the cable industry “must carry” the analog (NTSC) signals and the digital DTV signals, then what transmission formats would be used? The cable industry wanted to use QAM and take advantage of the greater bandwidth instead of the 6 MHz limited 8VSB. Additional arguments for COFDM have been made. The satellites use a different type of modulation, QPSK, to get the MPEG encoded images to the viewer’s set top box. The Internet uses packets in a binary mode. Making the set top box handle the multitude of possible signals says to me that a transmission standard should be firmed up if we are to take advantage of the digital television standard. The world, with the exception of the United States and Korea (which has bought the Zenith intellectual properties), has gone to COFDM. The FCC and Korean lobbyists in Washington are trying to hold on to the Zenith 8VSB standard. The FCC must be thinking that 8VSB was invented by Americans and so must be implemented just because it was invented here. The Koreans who purchased the Zenith properties don’t want to lose out on all of the possible royalties.

With the picture quality independent of the transmission standard, it is impossible for the viewing public to make that decision in the market place. Unlike analog, with digital you either have a perfect picture or no picture at all. For those of you who remember when the Beta vs. VHS issue took place, the public thought that the longer playing time of the VHS was better so the public put the somewhat superior Beta format out of business. At that time, VHS was better than what the viewer was receiving from his off the air antenna or cable, and so the statement “VHS quality” was used to describe video. Today the term “Better than VHS Quality” is used to describe NTSC, but with DTV HDTV now possible viewers will want the better resolution and quality of HDTV type signals.

Movie studios and independent filmmakers are using HDTV now as their preferred format of choice. That appears to be the big market place of the future. HDTV is now starting to be distributed via the Internet, satellite, fiber, DVD, cable and over the air.  The old soft, low resolution images of NTSC or SDTV will be around for a while yet but for big, wide screen displays it will eventually, I think, fall by the wayside. How DTV will evolve over time will certainly be very different ten years from now and will, in fact,  be barely recognizable compared to today. The FCC and the television industry rightly believe that DTV will be the biggest change since the introduction of color. In fact, it will transform TV and will blur the edges between traditional television and other forms of entertainment. Today DTV is only an emulation of the traditional television environment. Eventually, however, DTV will open possibilities far beyond today’s traditional television.

In summary, the FCC should concentrate more on what the best modulation method should be, not on what should be “must carry”. Don’t forget the broadcaster has to have a license to broadcast. He must provide free television to the viewers as his license is issued for the good and benefit of the public. Cable and satellite companies do not have to have a license but are regulated by the FCC. As far as “must carry”, if you have a better, more versatile, image, the viewer will ultimately want that. But the viewer will not be able to determine what the best transmission system is. The marketplace cannot determine that. The picture quality looks the same in any of these digital transmission systems and is only as good as the source.

With DTV, it is possible to maintain the free TV concept but a higher quality image can also be transmitted and, with the advent of contents conditional access, DTV can do something analog can’t. This makes “pay-for-view” a reality. Programs can be encrypted. In order to be able to view them you would have to have a contractual agreement of some kind in order to view the content. This does not affect the transmission or the quality of the images. The broadcaster could air “free” content as well as “restricted” content and fulfill the FCC’s requirement for free TV as well as generate additional revenues from the better images of HDTV.


Ed Note: Since things have been so hot and heavy, we felt it our responsibility to offer you the opportunity to review what the different prospectives have had to say on all this.

Subject: FCC Seeks to Lay Burden for DTV Transition Squarely with Consumers
From: Consumer Federation of America

In a letter sent to the FCC today, Dr. Mark Cooper, The Consumer Federation of America's Director of Research, strongly criticized the FCC for seeking to require all TVs over 13" be equipped with digital tuners by 2003. Cooper stated that "this would deal yet another egregious blow to consumers.  With this move, the FCC will shift the burden of the digital transition from broadcasters to consumers and will price millions of Americans out of the market for new television sets."

Furthermore, the FCC will not hold open meetings on this issue but instead will seek to pass it on circulation.  "By opting to place this issue on circulation the FCC is trying to slip it past us," concluded Cooper.   "This is an important issue with serious and costly ramifications for consumers, it deserves to be fully vetted in an open public forum."

Should the FCC succeed in passing this measure on circulation, the Consumer Federation of America will ask the incoming Commission to make the reversal of this anti-consumer action one of its top priorities.

Full text of letter follows:
January 16, 2001

The Honorable William Kennard, Chairman
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20554

Dear Chairman Kennard:

The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) continues to support the efforts of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to move forward on the transition to digital television (DTV) and to gain over-the-air access to digital programming for all Americans by 2006.

The CFA continues to take issue with the FCC's proposal to require that television sets over 13" be equipped with digital tuners.  We have expressed our concerns on this issue previously in a letter to you dated November 27, 2000 and have highlighted them again here:

We feel that a tuner requirement for all TVs over 13" places an unfair burden on consumers, for a number of reasons:

* The increase is completely unjustified and an unnecessary burden on all consumers.  It would impact low-income consumers most.

* Indeed, some low-income consumers who need a new television set but are unable to afford it may potentially be priced out of the market, and so be cut off from the most important sources of news and information in our information society.

* Cheaper options, such as digital converters, will be undermined by such a mandate, because the market for upgrades to small analog TVs will not be very attractive.

The Commission's most recent decision, to pull this issue from last Thursday's public meeting agenda, is yet a further indication that this FCC is attempting to pass an anti-consumer measure by the means least likely to call attention to the issue.  In placing this issue on circulation the Commission is able to quiet the opposition and artfully deliver yet another gift to the broadcasters.  By shifting the costs of the transition to DTV to consumers, the FCC allows the broadcasters to continue to drag their heels on the development of new, digital programming.  Without more programming it is clear that there will not be a timely and complete conversion to digital television, and broadcasters will be able to hold on to the valuable $70 billion worth of spectrum that they have been granted by the FCC well beyond 2006.

If the FCC does pass this measure on circulation, the Consumer Federation of America pledges to ask the incoming Commission to make the reversal of this anti-consumer action one of its top priorities.  Again we take this opportunity to urge the Commission to refrain from enacting a costly mandate on the consumers of America.

Sincerely yours,

Mark Cooper – Director of Research


Subject: The Digital Video Broadcasting Project Office rebuts the MSTV/NAB digital television testing procedures and results.

From: DVB Project Office

The DVB Consortium is a collection of over 280+ members from the industries involved in digital broadcasting. All trials and tests of DVB-T have been carried out by independent organizations or broadcast groups of many individual countries. Some of the worlds leading specialists, engineers and technicians have carefully put together credible and coherent testing regimes. Time and time again the results have shown in favor of the COFDM solution. DVB has acted in all cases as an independent background assistant where required. The DVB has data from around the world that shows the superiority of the COFDM DVB-T system and its capability to achieve outstanding results against any 8VSB system.

MSTV/NAB asked for an independent DVB specialist to be present at the 11th of January Seminar to discuss the results of the trials. This independent specialist was finally NOT INVITED. There was NO Specialists or any DVB representation at the seminar.

Amazingly, tests carried out in the USA despite all their broadcast engineering prowess have somehow come to the conclusion that the DVB-T system is inadequate and not capable to provide a service over their airwaves. 5 out of 7 locations failed? No consideration given as to why!

A senior DVB spokesman stated that the results were not a shock as they were only looking for a flaw that would discredit the COFDM standard. The problem in the receiver suited the end requirement. America is making a mistake.

If anything, DVB has been guilty of not supporting the trials at an Equipment
Manufacturing level. This is due to the fact that  6MHz receiving equipment has to be created from existing 8MHz equipment. Modifications are normally laboratory fixes. Too many DVB Receiver Manufacturers have to wait for a market to open before investing - with the USA wavering nobody has 'fully committed' to supporting any different 6MHz implementations and this is the same for other countries just in case the decision was for another system. (catch 22 - no decision-no equipment, no equipment-no decision)

However , it was known about the receiver saturation effect and the resulting Sinclair re-testing with appropriate filters showed how the MSTV/NAB tests results are in fact totally invalid.

Optimized DVB Receivers have been made available for tests on the West Coast of the USA and Canada - independent from any MSTV trials.

On this note the DVB will remain available to assist the new regime in the USA and give the guidance and support through availability of specialists, documentation and test methodology in order that the 'political reasons' for the rush to decision are rectified in the near term. It must be remembered the NAB Chairman himself was quoted as saying to Russian Seminar participants at the end of last year that the US Digital Terrestrial      Television system was a market failure . This present decision, does not make sense if that is the feeling of the NAB, and therefore rejecting an attempt to rectify this situation will only further ruin the already failed DTV market penetration in the United States.

And finally, by its own admittance the MSTV/NAB findings state that the present DTV 8VSB solution is inadequate for the future of over the air broadcasting! The DVB is proud to highlight that more than almost 40 countries around the world have realized the power of DVB-T and have fully embraced the system, instead of totally rejecting it.

For more info, visit:
Subject: FCC Launches Interactive Television Inquiry
From: Newsbytes News Network

WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S.A., Newsbytes: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today said it has launched a formal inquiry on how to approach - and possibly regulate - the emerging market for interactive television (ITV).

The notice of inquiry comes just days after the FCC conditionally approved the media marriage of America Online and Time Warner. The commission had been under intense pressure to include restrictions designed to curb AOL Time Warner's lead in the fledgling market for ITV services. But it declined to do so, saying it did not have enough information about the new technology to make an informed decision.

The inquiry will seek to define what services constitute ITV services, how such services will be delivered, and the general status of the ITV market.

In particular, the FCC wants to know whether it should classify ITV services within its traditional definition of "cable services," which are defined in part as a "one-way transmission to subscribers of video programming or other programming services."

If the FCC finds that ITV services involve enough enhancements, they could be classified as telecommunications services, thus subject to the same market- opening and competitive regulations to which local and long-distance telephone providers must adhere.

Last year, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found that Internet service over cable lines was essentially the same service as dial-up Internet access over telephone lines. That decision has left it up to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to decide whether cable companies providing Internet access should be regulated as telecommunications providers.

The FCC has yet to declare its long-awaited notice of inquiry into the open access issue.

As he has often done on commission actions that contemplate imposing any federal
regulations, FCC Commissioner Harold Furchtgott-Roth dissented in today's decision, saying it was "too premature" for the FCC to address the issue.

For more information on today's decision, check out:


Subject: CEA Applauds FCC Actions on DTV Transition & Expresses concerns about proposed mandatory DTV reception requirements
From: Consumer Electronics Association -Communications

Arlington, Va., January 19, 2001 - The following statement was issued by Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) President and CEO Gary Shapiro regarding the actions taken today by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) surrounding the transition to digital television (DTV):

"In total, the actions announced today by the FCC will go a long way toward speeding the transition to digital television."

"First, we applaud the Commission for again reaffirming the 8-VSB transmission standard as the best standard for the United States.  This action, combined with the recommendation released earlier this week by the National Association of Broadcasters and the Association for Maximum Service Television, definitively ends the debate over the DTV modulation standard.  It is time to move on.

"We are encouraged that the FCC is setting deadlines to encourage broadcasters to provide digital service to their full service area. This will help ensure that all Americans have access to a digital signal.

"We also commend the Commission for recognizing that innovation and
forces will result in continued improvements in already strong-performing DTV products.  Continual innovation is a hallmark of our industry.  The history of our industry shows that consumer electronics improve in performance even as new features and enhancements are added.

"Finally, we again express our concern about the proposal mandating the inclusion of digital receivers in a specific category of analog television sets.  As Commissioner Tristani and many consumer groups have said, this mandate would increase the cost of television sets and limit consumer choice.  The proposal is anti-consumer and would slow the transition to DTV.

"We remain committed to working closely with the FCC to encourage the rapid transition to DTV."

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) represents more than 600 U.S. companies involved in the design, development, manufacturing and distribution of audio, video, mobile electronics, communications, information technology, multimedia and accessory products, as well as related services, that are sold through consumer channels.  CEA represents the consumer electronics industry in association with the Electronic Industries Alliance (EIA).

CEA also sponsors and manages the International CES - Your Source for Workstyle and Lifestyle Technology.  All profits from CES are reinvested into industry services, including technical training and education, industry promotion, engineering standards development, market research and legislative advocacy.


Subject: Statement of ATSC Chairman Robert K. Graves, regarding Recent FCC and Industry Actions on Digital Television Standards

January 19, 2001
“The decisions this week by the NAB and MSTV and by the FCC put an end to the debate surrounding the ATSC/VSB transmission system used for terrestrial DTV broadcasts in the U.S.  With the transmission system debate behind us, with the impressive array of DTV and HDTV products now available at ever lower prices, and with the increasing amount of compelling DTV content becoming available from broadcasters, the outlook for DTV services in the U.S. is bright.  And we expect this week’s actions by the broadcast industry and the FCC to enhance the prospects for adoption of the ATSC Digital Television Standard in other countries.”

“Significant improvements have already been made in the performance of VSB receivers, and further improvements are in the pipeline from a variety of manufacturers.  Moreover, work is under way within the ATSC to further enhance the ATSC/VSB standard by adding more robust transmission modes that address emerging DTV applications, and we expect to issue a Request for Proposals for these enhancements shortly.  We invite interested parties in all segments of the industry to join us in the effort to continue to enhance the ATSC DTV Standard.”


Subject: To Make Matters worse!
From: Craig Birkmaier

(Ed Note: Craig Birkmaier has some rather interesting points of view and rather than duplicate his efforts, we present his and an article that he was referring to that confirms things we’ve been saying for years now. Thanks Craig.)

Wondering why you can't buy digital cable set-top boxes at retail? This was supposed to be a fate accompli by now, the result of moves by Congress and the FCC to open up the market for set-top boxes. But it has not happened. Why?

Perhaps it is because the cable industry is rushing headlong (see story below) into Digital TV, hoping to stem the tide of competition from DBS, which DOES sell its boxes at retail.  Perhaps it is because cable understands the potential revenues it may control by placing interactive terminals in the homes of all of its collecting tolls for all transactions that flow through their networks.

So rather than selling digital set-top boxes, the cable industry is giving them to consumers. And they are accelerating the deployment of these boxes. While some of the boxes are Open Cable compliant, most of the MSOs are NOT using the OpenCable specs, choosing instead to build proprietary front ends to their digital cable systems...

What better way to build walled gardens, control competition, and force would be content providers to create proprietary interactive TV content for each system.

Unfortunately this is turning Interactive TV into as big a mess as the now dead broadcast DTV standard. When is this madness going to end?



Scientific-Atlanta to Increase Explorer Set-top Production Capacity, Reflecting Accelerating Demand for Digital Cable and Interactive TV Capacity Boost to 1.5 Million Per Quarter Represents Fifth Increase

January 19, 2001 12:00am
Source: PR Newswire

ATLANTA, Jan. 18 /PRNewswire -- Scientific-Atlanta (NYSE: SFA) today announced plans to boost production capacity of its popular Explorer(R) digital interactive set-tops to 6 million per year, 1.5 million per quarter by the end of the current quarter, representing a six-fold increase in less than two years. The additional manufacturing capacity at Scientific-Atlanta's Juarez, Mexico plant will enable the broadband leader to produce Explorer set- tops at an average rate of 115,000 per week.

Nearly 5 million Explorer set-tops, including the Explorer 2000, 3000, 2100, and 3100 models, have already been shipped. Scientific-Atlanta added a seventh assembly and testing line to its Juarez plant last quarter. In order to produce 1.5 million Explorer set-tops per quarter, the company has enhanced manufacturing efficiencies by converting all seven assembly lines for production of its newest Explorer 2100 and 3100 models. As part of the ramp up, Scientific-Atlanta will also increase its outsourcing of sub-assembly cards.

"Scientific-Atlanta has 7200 employees and a very modern 340,000 square foot plant in Juarez, Mexico," said Greg Taylor, Scientific-Atlanta's vice president of worldwide manufacturing. "Our primary goal is to make sure we're doing everything we can to meet the growing needs of our customers. We're very proud of our team in Juarez, which will now oversee the fifth major expansion in the last 18 months."

Scientific-Atlanta, Inc. ( ) is a leading supplier of digital content distribution systems, transmission networks for broadband access to the home, digital interactive set-tops and subscriber systems designed for video, high speed Internet and voice over IP (VoIP) networks, and worldwide customer service and support. Scientific-Atlanta's Explorer platform is today delivering 12 interactive TV applications, including video-on-demand, Web browsing, e-commerce, and email, across 47 cable systems that represent nearly 8 million subscribers. More than 700,000 subscribers are currently accessing interactive TV applications using Explorer set-tops.

"Forward-looking statements" as defined in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 may be included in this news release. A variety of factors could cause the Company's actual results to differ from the anticipated results expressed in such forward-looking statements. Investors are referred to the Company's Cautionary Statements (Exhibit 99 to the Company's most recent Form 10-K), which statements are incorporated into this news release by reference.

Additional information on Scientific-Atlanta is available at


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