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Downgrading Broadcast Video

The call in today said that Cable companies could not downgrade video. This seems rather vague. Could a cable company get fined or shutdown because their equipment just isn't all that great. Even at that there is going to be some amount of downgrade in the distribution process. Or does downgrading just mean you can't lower the resolution? I say its a case of the people writing the law knowing nothing about tech.

Also if it is only for cable companies than isn't this allowing the satellite companies to keep their freedom while limiting the choice of cable companies? I seem to remember hearing about one of the satellite companies compresses their video. It was still 1080i but a compressed form.

If it is true that cable companies can not downgrade the video I could see this becoming an issue very fast. In most cases cable companies own the digital cable boxes that are being used. So lets say that something is being broadcasted in 1080p, the cable company can not downgrade the video so this would mean that the cable box would have to send out 1080p. You could then run into a cable box giving a tv that is only able to do 1080i or 720p a 1080p signal. Isn't it better to just downgrade the signal rather than giving your tv more than it wants to handle?

Also in the future the vagueness could cause issues. Lets just say that some day a new higher quality video is created (doesn't seem that far fetched does it?) but all of the equipment that the cable companies have can't handle it. It would seem rather easy to just add in an extra little box that downgrades the quality. At some point the market would become wide spread enough that they would upgrade. But by this law it would mean they would have to upgrade all of their equipment as soon as they receive the first higher resolution signal.

All of that might have just been for nothing. But the point is, all of this can and will probably happen due to vague pieces of law.

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Hopefully this will shed some light...

In reply to: Downgrading Broadcast Video

As I wrote in a reply e-mail to Tom, a bill passed by the House in December 2005 before recessing, and modified by the Senate in January 2006 and (S. 2686), President Bush signed into law the Digital Transition bill in February 2006. This amends the Communications Act of 1934.

The House version allowed for downgrading. However, within the Senate's version of the bill, this section was modified and kinda went unnoticed that delivered a blow to the cable industry.

"Section 614(b)(4)(47 U.S.C. 534(b)(4))
(B) VIDEO DIGITAL SIGNAL - With respect to any television station that is transmitting broadcast programming exclusively in the digital television service in a local market, a cable operator of a cable system in that market shall carry any digital video signaling requiring carriage under this section and program related-material in the digital format transmitted by that station, without material degradation, if the licensee of that station relies on this section or section 615 to obtain carriage of the digital video signal and program-related material on that cable system in that market."

In other words, the Congress denied cable operators the right to downgrade digital broadcasts, including high-definition broadcasts, to analog before sending them to subscribers.

SO SURE MOLLY & TOM, take Todd's side... Molly, you love Todd more...

Keep up the good work, Veronica... keeper of the BOL t-shirts...

Guidemaker Dave


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i agree with you

In reply to: Hopefully this will shed some light...

This addresses one issue:
Sec 701(
20 ??(i) MATERIAL DEGRADATION.?For purposes of this
21 section and section 615, transmission of a digital signal
22 over a cable system in a compressed bitstream shall not
23 be considered material degradation as long as such com24
pression does not materially affect the picture quality the
25 consumer receives.??.

However even that is still vague. Just look at an audio compression debate. At what point do you call the picture quality materially affected.

I'm not disagreeing with you in any way, I am just saying it's a crazy part of the law.

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In reply to: i agree with you

As most reporters, bloggers, think tanks (i.e., Benton Foundation Brookings Institute), and even cable operators themselves believe, law means in essence "don't mess with the signal"

But then again, there's plenty of time to lobby and change it before Feb. 2009.

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