thefederalregister.com

Daily Rules, Proposed Rules, and Notices of the Federal Government

FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION

47 CFR Part 76

[MB Docket No. 12-217; FCC 12-86]

Cable Television Technical and Operational Requirements

AGENCY: Federal Communications Commission.
ACTION: Proposed rule.
SUMMARY: In this document, the Federal Communications Commission proposes to update technical and operational rules related to cable television systems and other multichannel video programming distributors that operate coaxial cable systems. The Commission seeks comments on rules that would update its minimum signal quality standards and signal leakage detection and monitoring for digital transmission. Additionally, the Commission proposes numerous corrections and updates to its to its cable television technical rules.
DATES: Comments are due on or before December 10, 2012; reply comments are due on or before January 7, 2013. Written PRA comments on the proposed information collection requirements contained herein must be submitted by the public, Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and other interested parties on or before December 10, 2012.
ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by MB Docket No. 12-217 by any of the following methods:

*Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov.Follow the instructions for submitting comments.

*Federal Communications Commission's Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS) Web Site: http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/.Follow the instructions for submitting comments.

*Mail:Filings can be sent by hand or messenger delivery, by commercial overnight courier, or by first-class or overnight U.S. Postal Service mail. All filings must be addressed to the Commission's Secretary, Office of the Secretary, Federal Communications Commission.

*People with Disabilities:Contact the FCC to request reasonable accommodations (accessible format documents, sign language interpreters, CART, etc.) by email:FCC504@fcc.govor phone: 202-418-0530 or TTY: 202-418-0432.

In addition to filing comments with the Secretary, a copy of any comments on the Paperwork Reduction Act proposed information collection requirements contained herein should be submitted to the Federal Communications Commission via email toPRA@fcc.govand to Nicholas A. Fraser, Office of Management and Budget, via email toNicholas_A._Fraser@omb.eop.govor via fax at 202-395-5167. For detailed instructions for submitting comments and additional information on the rulemaking process, see theSUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATIONsection of this document.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For additional information on this proceeding, contact Jeffrey Neumann,Jeffrey.Neumann@fcc.gov,of the Engineering Division, Media Bureau, (202) 418-7000. For additional information concerning the Paperwork Reduction Act information collection requirements contained in this document, send an email toPRA@fcc.govor contact Cathy Williams at (202) 418-2918.
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

This is a summary of the Commission's Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, FCC 12-217, adopted and released on August 3, 2012. The full text is available for public inspection and copying during regular business hours in the FCC Reference Center, Federal Communications Commission, 445 12th Street SW., CY-A257, Washington, DC 20554. This document will also be available via ECFS athttp://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/.Documents will be available electronically in ASCII, Word 97, and/or Adobe Acrobat. The complete text may be purchased from the Commission's copy contractor, 445 12th Street SW., Room CY-B402, Washington, DC 20554. Alternative formats are available for people with disabilities (Braille, large print, electronic files, audio format), by sending an email tofcc504@fcc.govor calling the Commission's Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau at (202) 418-0530 (voice), (202) 418-0432 (TTY).

This document contains proposed information collection requirements. As part of its continuing effort to reduce paperwork burden and as required by the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501-3520), the Federal Communications Commission invites the general public and other Federal agencies to comment on the following information collection(s). Public and agency comments are due December 10, 2012.

Comments should address: (a) Whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the Commission, including whether the information shall have practical utility; (b) the accuracy of the Commission's burden estimates; (c) ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information collected; and (d) ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on the respondents, including the use of automated collection techniques or other forms of information technology. In addition, pursuant to the Small Business Paperwork Relief Act of 2002, Public Law 107-198,see44 U.S.C. 3506(c)(4), we seek specific comment on how we might “further reduce the information collection burden for small business concerns with fewer than 25 employees.”

To view or obtain a copy of this information collection request (ICR) submitted to OMB: (1) Go to this OMB/GSA Web page:http://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/PRAMain,(2) look for the section of the Web page called “Currently Under Review,” (3) click on the downward-pointing arrow in the “Select Agency” box below the “Currently Under Review” heading, (4) select “Federal Communications Commission” from the list of agencies presented in the “Select Agency” box, (5) click the “Submit” button to the right of the “Select Agency” box, and (6) when the list of FCC ICRs currently under review appears, look for the OMB control number of this ICR as shown in the Supplementary Information section below (or its title if there is no OMB control number) and then click on the ICR Reference Number. A copy of the FCC submission to OMB will be displayed.

OMB Control Number:3060-0289.

Title:Section 76.601 Performance Tests, Section 76.1704 Proof of Performance Test Data, Section 76.1705 Performance Tests (Channels Delivered), 76.1717 Compliance with Technical Standards

Form Number:Not applicable.

Type of Review:Revision of a currently approved collection.

Respondents:Business or other for-profit entities; State, local or tribal government.

Number of Respondents and Responses:5,150 respondents; 7,705 responses.

Estimated Time per Response:0.5 to 70 hours.

Frequency of Response:Recordkeeping requirement; Semi-annually and Triennial reporting requirements; Third party disclosure requirement.

Obligation To Respond:Required to obtain or retain benefits. The statutory authority for this collection of information is contained in 47 U.S.C. 624(e).

Total Annual Burden:178,697 hours.

Total Annual Costs:None.

Nature and Extent of Confidentiality:There is no need for confidentiality with this collection of information.

Privacy Act Impact Assessment:No impact(s).

Needs and Uses:The Commission is seeking approval for this revised proposed information collection from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). On August 3, 2012, the Commission released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, In the Matter of Cable Television Technical and Operational Requirements, MB Docket No. 12-217; FCC 12-86. This rulemaking proposes to revise the information collection requirements that support the Commission's cable television proof-of-performance rules that would be codified at 47 CFR 76.601, as required by the 1992 Cable Act at 47 U.S.C. 624(e). Currently, the Commission's rules are designed for analog transmission; the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposes creation of equivalent, digital rules. In recent years, operators transitioning away from analog cable technology have no longer been able to perform proof-of-performance testing on those systems or portions of systems. By creating equivalent, digital rules, the NPRM proposes to once again require the majority of the cable industry to meet standards.

The proposed information collection requirements for this collection are as follows:

47 CFR 76.601(b) requires the operator of each cable television system shall conduct complete performance tests of that system at least twice each calendar year (at intervals not to exceed seven months), unless otherwise noted below. The performance tests shall be directed at determining the extent to which the system complies with all the technical standards set forth in § 76.605 and shall be as follows:

(1) For cable television systems with 1,000 or more subscribers but with 12,500 or fewer subscribers, proof-of-performance tests conducted pursuant to this section shall include measurements taken at six (6) widely separated points. However, within each cable system, one additional test point shall be added for every additional 12,500 subscribers or fraction thereof (e.g., 7 test points if 12,501 to 25,000 subscribers; 8 test points if 25,001 to 37,500 subscribers, etc.). In addition, for technically integrated portions of cable systems that are not mechanically continuous (e.g., employing microwave connections), at least one test point will be required for each portion of the cable system served by a technically integrated hub. The proof-of-performance test points chosen shall be balanced to represent all geographic areas served by the cable system and should include at least one test point in each local franchise area. At least one-third of the test points shall be representative of subscriber terminals most distant from the system input and from each microwave receiver (if microwave transmissions are employed), in terms of cable length. The measurements may be taken at convenient monitoring points in the cable network: provided, that data shall be included to relate the measured performance of the system as would be viewed from a nearby subscriber terminal. An identification of the instruments, including the makes, model numbers, and the most recent date of calibration, a description of the procedures utilized, and a statement of the qualifications of the person performing the tests shall also be included.

(2) Proof-of-performance tests to determine the extent to which a cable television system complies with the standards set forth in § 76.605(b)(3), (4), and (5) shall be made on each of the National Television System Committee (NTSC), or the analog television broadcast standard, or similar video channels of that system. Unless otherwise noted, proof-of-performance tests for all other standards in § 76.605 (b) shall be made on a minimum of five (5) channels for systems operating a total activated channel capacity of less than 550 MHz, and ten (10) channels for systems operating a total activated channel capacity of 550 MHz or greater. The channels selected for testing must be representative of all the channels within the cable television system.

(i) The operator of each cable television system shall conduct semi-annual proof-of-performance tests of that system, to determine the extent to which the system complies with the technical standards set forth in § 76.605(b)(4) as follows. The visual signal level on each channel shall be measured and recorded, along with the date and time of the measurement, once every six hours (at intervals of not less than five hours or no more than seven hours after the previous measurement), to include the warmest and the coldest times, during a 24-hour period in January or February and in July or August.

(ii) The operator of each cable television system shall conduct triennial proof-of-performance tests of its system to determine the extent to which the system complies with the technical standards set forth in § 76.605(b)(11).

(3) Proof-of-performance tests to determine the extent to which a cable television system complies with the standards set forth in § 76.605(c)(1) shall be made on each of the Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM), or the digital cable transmission standard, or similar video channels of that system. Unless otherwise as noted, proof-of-performance tests for all other standards in § 76.605(c) shall be made on a minimum of five (5) channels for systems operating a total activated channel capacity of less than 550 MHz, and ten (10) channels for systems operating a total activated channel capacity of 550 MHz or greater. The channels selected for testing must be representative of all the channels within the cable television system.

(4) For cable televisions systems which operate both NTSC or similar and QAM of similar channels, proof-of-performance tests to determine the extent to which the cable televisions system complies with § 76.605(b)(1), (2), (6)-(11) and 76.605(c)(1) shall be apportioned relative to the proportion of channels allocated to each transmission type, except that at no time shall less than two channels of a particular type be tested.

47 CFR 76.605(e) requires that cable television systems distributing signals by methods other than 6 MHz NTSC or similar analog channels or 6 MHz QAM or similar channels on conventional coaxial or hybrid fiber-coaxial cable systems and which, because of their basic design, cannot comply with one or more of the technical standards set forth in paragraphs (b) and (c) of this section, may be permitted to operate upon Commission approval on a case-by-case basis. To obtain Commission approval, the operator must submit to the Commission its own proof-of-performance plan for ensuring subscribers receive good quality signals.

OMB Control Number:3060-0331.

Title:Aeronautical Frequency Notification, FCC Form 321.

Form Number:FCC Form 321.

Type of Review:Revision of a currently approved collection.

Respondents:Business or other for-profit entities; Not-for-profit institutions.

Number of Respondents and Responses:1,100 respondents; 1,100 responses.

Estimated Time per Response:0.67 hours.

Frequency of Response:On occasion reporting requirement; Recordkeeping requirement; One time reporting requirement.

Obligation to Respond:Required to obtain or retain benefits. The statutoryauthority for this collection of information is contained in 47 U.S.C. 302 and 303.

Total Annual Burden:737 hours.

Total Annual Costs:$66,000.

Privacy Act Impact Assessment:No impact(s).

Nature and Extent of Confidentiality:There is no need for confidentiality with this collection of information.

Needs and Uses:The Commission is seeking approval for this revised proposed information collection from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). On August 3, 2012, the Commission released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, In the Matter of Cable Television Technical and Operational Requirements, MB Docket No. 12-217; FCC 12-86. This rulemaking proposes to revise the information collection requirements that support the Commission's signal leakage rules that would be codified at 47 CFR 76.1804, as required by the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, as codified at 47 U.S.C. 154(i), 301, 303, 308, 309, and 621. With this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the Federal Communications Commission is proposing to extend the notification requirements to operators of digital systems at lower thresholds than those required under existing, analog rules. Currently, operators are required to file FCC Form 321 to notify the Commission when they operate at a power above a particular threshold. This threshold was designed to protect over-the-air users of the spectrum from interference from analog cable systems. The NPRM proposes to adopt a lower threshold for digital systems in order to provide over-the-air users of the spectrum with an equivalent level of protection.

The NPRM proposes to create a digital equivalency for the Commission's analog rules. As a result, these rules are designed to capture the same respondents previously covered by the Commission's analog rules, but who have transitioned, or are transitioning, to digital operation. Further, this digital equivalency is designed to take an equivalent amount of time to fulfill. As a result, absent external factors, the hourly estimated burden will not change as a result of this NPRM (there will not be an increase or decrease to the hourly burden). However, widespread industry consolidation has resulted in fewer, though larger, respondents, resulting in a decrease in the total number of estimated responses.

The NPRM does not propose that the information to be submitted on the form be changed. The proposed information collection requirements for this collection are as follows: Section 76.1804 states a Multichannel Video Programming Distributor (MVPD) shall notify the Commission before transmitting any carrier of other signal component with an average power level across a 30 kHz bandwidth in any 2.5 millisecond time period equal to or greater than 10−5watts at any point in the cable distribution system on any new frequency or frequencies in the aeronautical radio frequency bands (108-137 MHz, 225-400 MHz). The notification shall be made on FCC Form 321 . Such notification shall include:

(a) Legal name and local address of the MVPD;

(b) The names and FCC identifiers (e.g., CA0001) of the system communities affected, for a cable system, and the name and FCC identifier (e.g., CAB901), for other MVPDs;

(c) The names and telephone numbers of local system officials who are responsible for compliance with §§ 76.610 through 76.616 and § 76.1803;

(d) Carrier frequency, tolerance, and type of modulation of all carriers in the aeronautical bands at any location in the cable distribution system and the maximum of those average powers measured over a 2.5 kHz bandwidth as described in the introductory paragraph to this rule section;

(e) The geographical coordinates (in NAD83) of a point near the center of the system, together with the distance (in kilometers) from the designated point to the most remote point of the plant, existing or planned, that defines a circle enclosing the entire plant;

(f) Certification that the monitoring procedure used is in compliance with § 76.614 or description of the routine monitoring procedure to be used; and

(g) For MVPDs subject to § 76.611, the cumulative signal leakage index derived under § 76.611(a)(1) or the results of airspace measurements derived under § 76.611(a)(2), including a description of the method by which compliance with the basic signal leakage criteria is achieved and the method of calibrating the measurement equipment.

(h) Aeronautical Frequency Notifications, FCC Form 321, shall be personally signed either electronically or manually by the operator; by one of the partners, if the operator is a partnership; by an officer, if the operator is a corporation; by a member who is an officer, if the operator is an unincorporated association; or by any duly authorized employee of the operator.

(i) Aeronautical Frequency Notifications, FCC Form 321, may be signed by the operator's attorney in case of the operator's physical disability or of his absence from the United States. The attorney shall in that event separately set forth the reasons why the FCC Form 321 was not signed by the operator. In addition, if any matter is stated on the basis of the attorney's belief only (rather than the attorney's knowledge), the attorney shall separately set forth the reasons for believing that such statements are true.

(j) The FCC Registration Number (FRN).

OMB Control Number:3060-0332.

Title:Section 76.614, Cable Television System Regular Monitoring, and Section 76.1706, Signal Leakage Logs and Repair Records.

Form Number:Not applicable.

Type of Review:Revision of a currently approved collection.

Respondents:Business or other for-profit entities.

Number of Respondents and Responses:5,000 respondents; 5,000 responses.

Estimated Time per Response:0.0167-0.5 hours.

Frequency of Response:On occasion reporting requirement; Recordkeeping requirement.

Obligation to Respond:Required to obtain or retain benefits. The statutory authority for this collection of information is contained in 47 U.S.C. 302 and 303.

Total Annual Burden:3,502 hours.

Total Annual Costs:None.

Privacy Act Impact Assessment:No impact(s).

Nature and Extent of Confidentiality:There is no need for confidentiality with this collection of information.

Needs and Uses:The Commission is seeking approval for this revised proposed information collection from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). On August 3, 2012, the Commission released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, In the Matter of Cable Television Technical and Operational Requirements, MB Docket No. 12-217; FCC 12-86. This rulemaking proposes to revise information collection 3060-0332 which supports the Commission's signal leakage monitoring, logging and repair rules that are codified at 47 CFR 76.614 and 76.1706, as required by the obligation to manage the radio frequency spectrum, as codified at 47 U.S.C. 302 and 303. Currently, § 76.614 requires cable operators to monitor for leaks which exceed a particular threshold. This threshold was designed to protect over-the-air users of the spectrum from interference from analog cable systems. The NPRM proposes to adopt a lower threshold for digital systems in order to provide over-the-airusers of the spectrum with an equivalent level of protection.

The NPRM proposes to create a digital equivalency for the Commission's analog rules. As a result, these rules are designed to capture the same respondents previously covered by the Commission's analog rules, but who have transitioned, or are transitioning, to digital operation. Further, this digital equivalency is designed to take an equivalent amount of time to fulfill. As a result, absent external factors, the hourly estimated burden will not change as a result of this NPRM (there will not be an increase or decrease to the hourly burden). However, widespread industry consolidation has resulted in fewer, though larger, respondents, resulting in a decrease in the total number of estimated responses.

OMB Control Number:3060-0433.

Title:Basic Signal Leakage Performance Report, FCC Form 320.

Form Number:FCC Form 320.

Type of Review:Revision of a currently approved collection.

Respondents:Business or other for-profit entities.

Number of Respondents and Responses:5,550 respondents; 5,550 responses.

Estimated Time per Response:20 hours.

Frequency of Response:On occasion reporting requirement; Recordkeeping requirement; Annual reporting requirement.

Obligation To Respond:Required to obtain or retain benefits. The statutory authority for this collection of information is contained in 47 U.S.C. 302 and 303.

Total Annual Burden:111,000 hours.

Total Annual Costs:None.

Privacy Act Impact Assessment:No impact(s).

Nature and Extent of Confidentiality:There is no need for confidentiality with this collection of information.

Needs and Uses:The Commission is seeking approval for this revised proposed information collection from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). On August 3, 2012, the Commission released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, MB Docket No. 12-217; FCC 12-86. This rulemaking proposes to revise information collection 3060-0433 which supports the Commission's cumulative signal leakage calculation and reporting rules that would be codified at 47 CFR 76.611 and 76.1803, as required by the obligation to manage the radio frequency spectrum, as codified at 47 U.S.C. 302 and 303. With this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the Federal Communications Commission is proposing that operators of digital cable systems calculate and report leakage at different thresholds than those required of analog systems. Currently, § 76.611 requires operators of coaxial-cable television systems to tabulate leaks above a certain threshold, and prohibits them from operating if the accumulated leaks exceed a particular number. These thresholds were designed to protect over-the-air users of the spectrum from interference from analog cable systems. The NPRM proposes to adopt a lower thresholds for digital systems in order to provide over-the-air users of the spectrum with an equivalent level of protection.

The NPRM does not propose that the form submitted pursuant to Section 76.1803 be changed. The NPRM proposes to create a digital equivalency for the Commission's analog rules. As a result, these rules are designed to capture the same respondents previously covered by the Commission's analog rules, but who have transitioned, or are transitioning, to digital operation. Further, this digital equivalency is designed to take an equivalent amount of time to fulfill. As a result, absent external factors, the hourly estimated burden will not change as a result of this NPRM (there will not be an increase or decrease to the hourly burden). However, widespread industry consolidation has resulted in fewer, though larger, respondents, resulting in a decrease in the total number of estimated responses.

Summary of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking I. Introduction

1. With this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”), we propose to update our cable television technical rules to facilitate the cable industry's widespread transition from analog to digital transmission systems. Specifically, we seek comment on our proposals to modernize and modify the Commission's proof-of-performance rules1 and basic signal leakage performance criteria.2 In addition, we propose modifications throughout Part 76 to remove outdated language, correct citations, and make other minor or non-substantive updates. This NPRM promotes the goals of Executive Order 13579 and the Commission's plan adopted thereto, whereby the Commission analyzes rules that may be outmoded, ineffective, insufficient, or excessively burdensome and determines whether any such regulations should be modified, streamlined, expanded, or repealed.3 As set forth below, we seek to adopt clear and effective rules that reflect technological advancements in the cable television industry, and apply them to cable operators in a way that is minimally burdensome.

1 See47 CFR 76.601, 605, 609, 1704, 1705, and 76.1713.

2 See47 CFR 76.610 through 620, 76.615(a)(12), 76.1706, 76.1803 through 1804.

3 SeeExecutive Order No. 13579, section 2, 76 FR 41587 (July 11, 2011);Final Plan for Retrospective Analysis of Existing Rules,Public Notice, 2012 WL 1851335 (rel. May 18, 2012) (also available athttp://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2012/db0521/DOC-314166A1.doc).

II. Background

2. The cable television industry is rapidly transitioning to digital service. The vast majority of cable system operators offer digital service,4 and several cable system operators have already migrated to “all-digital” service.5 Today, more than 80 percent of cable customers subscribe to some level of digital service, and that percentage is expected to increase to 84 percent by the end of this year.6 Cable television operators' transition to more efficient digital technology has freed up their limited bandwidth so they can offer new and improved products and services, such as high-definition (“HD”) video programming, high-speed Internet access, and digital voice services.7 For this reason, we expect most cableoperators will eventually transition to all-digital systems.8 Accordingly, in this NPRM, we propose revisions and updates to our technical standards that would apply to the operation of “all-digital” and “hybrid” cable systems.

4While digital service has become the most prevalent cable service, most cable systems that offer digital service still maintain some analog channel offerings. These cable systems are called “hybrid” systems.

5We note, for example, that BendBroadband and RCN have completed their transition to all-digital service, and Comcast and Cablevision are rapidly transitioning to all-digital service.See Carriage of Digital Television Broadcast Signals: Amendment to Part 76 of the Commission's Rules,Fifth Report and Order, FCC 12-59, 77 FR 36178 at 36183, para. 13, n.58, June 18, 2012 (“Viewability Sunset Order”). Comcast expects to have completed transitioning to all-digital service in 50% of its footprint by the end of 2012.SeeComcast Comments in MB Docket No. 11-169 at 4.

6 SeeSNL Kagan, “Video growth enjoys seasonal lift in Q1; service providers notch sub gains,” (May 16, 2012) (“More than 80% of basic subs are now digital.”); SNL Kagan, “SNL Kagan's 10-Year Cable TV Projections,” (Jul. 28, 2011). SNL Kagan projects that the percentage of cable subscribers subscribing to digital cable service will reach about 84 percent by year-end 2012, 88 percent by year-end 2013, 91 percent by year-end 2014, and 93 percent by year-end 2015.Id. See alsoNCTA's statistics, available athttp://www.ncta.com/statistics.aspx(last visited June 9, 2012) (indicating an 80.2% digital penetration rate (the percentage of total cable video customers that subscribe to a digital tier of cable service)).

7 See, e.g., Viewability Sunset Order,77 FR at 36185, para. 16.See alsoNCTA News Release, “Cable's Digital Transformation Providing Consumers with Advanced Technology, Lower Prices and Enhanced Competition,” (dated Jul. 29, 2009), available athttp://www.ncta.com/ReleaseType/MediaRelease/Cables-Digital-Transformation-Providing-Consumers-with-Advanced-Technology-Lower-Prices-and-Enhanced.aspx.

8 See, e.g., Viewability Sunset Order,77 FR at 36178, para. 13. An all-digital cable system offers only digital service to its subscribers, while a hybrid cable system offers both analog and digital cable service to its subscribers.

3. We specifically examine several of our technical rules ranging from those that ensure cable customers receive a good quality signal to those that protect spectrum users from interference by cable systems. This examination is necessary because our cable television technical rules were largely established when analog technology was predominant and digital technology was rare. As a result, our current rules treat the use of digital technology as an exception rather than the rule. For example, our current proof-of-performance (or signal quality) rules permit cable operators that use “non-conventional” technologies (i.e., non-analog) to file individual waivers in which the Commission might substitute alternative technical standards to ensure a good quality signal.9 The Commission has received several such petitions based on cable operators transitioning to all-digital operation.10 Instead of addressing these issues on a case-by-case basis, however, we believe that it is necessary to establish clear and generally applicable technical rules governing the signal quality of digital channels. In the cumulative signal leakage context, our existing rules require multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) operating coaxial cable systems to protect certain aeronautical frequencies from interference by analog signals, but provide no guidance about how to provide aeronautical protection from their digital signals. Additionally, we address numerous technical rules that have become outdated as a result of external factors. By addressing the gaps in our rules arising from these industry changes, we intend to provide operators with greater certainty regarding the standards that must be met in order to establish a good quality signal. In addition, updating our rules will help protect aeronautical distress and safety frequencies from interference and, at the same time, allow operators to utilize their spectrum more efficiently.

947 CFR 76.605(b).

10 See, e.g., RCN Corporation Petition for Special Relief,CSR-8166 and CSR-8301-Z (2010),Bend Cable Communications, LLC, Petition for Special Relief,CSR-8294-Z (2010),Petition of the City of Burlington, VT, D/B/A Burlington Telecom, for Relief from Proof of Performance Testing,CSR-8273-Z (2009),Massillon Cable TV, Inc. and Clear Picture, Inc., Petition for Special Relief,CSR-8274-Z (2010),Jackson Energy Authority Petition for Special Relief,CSR-6936-Z (2005).

4.Proof-of-Performance.The Commission has maintained technical standards since 1972 to govern the signal quality cable television systems deliver to consumers.11 Our rules focus on the electrical characteristics of analog television signals and set thresholds for numerous aspects of the signals when measured at subscribers' terminals to ensure that subscribers receive good quality cable signals.12 These standards, plus the requirement that operators test their systems and maintain the results of these tests in their public files, are collectively called “proof-of-performance” rules. The Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act of 1992 added section 624(e) of the Communications Act to establish a statutory mandate for cable TV signal quality standards.13 The statute requires the Commission to “update such standards periodically to reflect improvements in technology.”14 Since 1992, the Commission has adopted slight modifications to these rules,15 but the underlying assumption of the rules, analog transmission technology, remains unchanged.

11 See Amendment of Part 74, Subpart K, of the Commission's Rules and Regulations Relative to Community Antenna Television Systems,Report and Order, 37 FR 3252, Feb. 12, 1972.

12Specific signal characteristics that the rules address include aural carrier center frequency location and relative signal level; visual signal carrier signal level, amplitude characteristics of each subcarrier, and signal level to noise ratio; terminal isolation, hum modulation, and color carrier signal characteristics.See47 CFR 76.605;Cable Television Technical and Operational Requirements,Report and Order, FCC 92-61, 57 FR 11000, April 1, 1992 (“1992 Order”),aff'd in part and modified in part,Memorandum Opinion and Order, FCC 92-508, 57 FR 61009, Dec. 23, 1992 (“1992 Reconsideration Order”).

1347 U.S.C. 544(e) (requiring the establishment of “minimum technical standards relating to cable systems' technical operation and signal quality”).

14 Id.

15 See, e.g., Metric Conversion of Parts 1, 2, 18, 21, 22, 23, 25, 36, 61, 6368, 69, 73, 74, 76, 78, 80, 87, 90, and 94 of the Commission's Rules,Order, 58 FR 44952, Aug. 25, 1993 (converting the Commission's rules to metric);Implementation of Section 17 of the Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act of 1992; Compatibility Between Cable Systems and Consumer Electronics Equipment,First Report and Order, 59 FR 25339, May 16, 1994 (requiring cable systems to adopt the EIA IS-132 standard channel plan);Amendment of Part 76 of the Commission's Rules to Extend Interference Protection to the Marine and Aeronautical Distress and Safety Frequency 406.25 MHz,Report and Order, 69 FR 57862, Sept. 28, 2004 (“406 MHz Order”) (requiring cable systems to adopt the CEA-542-B channel plan and removing various expired clauses).

5. When the Commission adopted the current technical standards in 1992, it declined to extend the standards to the then-nascent practice of delivering cable television using digital signals.16 The Commission explained that technical standards for “digital transmission techniques * * * may be vastly different than those for analog NTSC signals,” but that it “retain[s] authority * * * to address this issue at a later time should the adoption of technical standards * * * appear necessary or desirable.”17 Since the analog rules were adopted in 1992, an increasing number of cable television systems have adopted digital delivery technologies. The majority of digital signals today are being delivered digitally via quadrature amplitude modulation (“QAM”) over hybrid fiber-coax (“HFC”) cable plant.18 Non-QAM digital cable systems have also emerged, though in far smaller numbers than QAM/HFC systems, and primarily utilize Internet Protocol (“IP”) delivery over either fiber-optic cable or DSL-based transmission19 over twisted-pair copper wires. Most recently, QAM-based operators have begun trials of DOCSIS-based20 IP delivery of cable service over HFC cable plant.21 Therefore, in this NPRM, we propose to establish proof-of performance rules that specifically address these advances in digital technology.

16 See 1992 Order.

17 Id.NTSC refers to the analog television system developed by the National Television System Committee and was the standard employed for analog broadcast television and analog cable television in the United States.

18Digital (QAM) transmission differs from analog (NTSC) transmission in two key ways. First, the digital carrier encodes multiple video and audio streams as well as associated meta-data as a single data stream which is parsed by the subscriber's equipment. Second, as a radio frequency signal, the QAM signal no longer contains the three distinct sub-carriers that make up an analog television signal, but instead appears in the spectrum in what is commonly referred to as a “haystack.” Therefore, concepts such as the aural carrier separation from the video carrier are simply no longer applicable as these carriers are no longer distinct radio frequency components. Further, even where a signal characteristic could be measured for both an analog and digital signal, such as signal to noise ratio, the level of performance required for a digital QAM signal to be received and properly decoded is not the same as the signal to noise ratio required for the visual carrier of an analog television signal.SeeWalter Ciciora, et al.,Modern Cable Television Technology148-151 (2nd Ed. 2004).

19 See 1992 Order.“DSL” stands for Digital Subscriber Line and is the technology employed by many MVPDs that utilize telephone networks to deliver video signals. Video is typically provisioned over VDSL (Very-high-bitrate DSL), providing up to 52 Mbps downstream or ADSL2+ (Asynchronous DSL version 2+), providing up to 24 Mbps downstream.

20DOCSIS is the Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification, and is the standard by which cable operators provide cable modem service to customers.SeeH. Newton,Newton's Telecom Dictionary265, (20th ed. 2004).

21 SeeSean Portnoy,Comcast Testing out IPTV Service at MIT to Compete Better Against Online Video Rivals,ZDNet (May 26, 2011).

6.Cable Signal Leakage—Protection of Aeronautical Channels.In addition to the minimum technical standards for signal quality, the Commission maintains a comprehensive testing, reporting, and repair regime to address the issue of interference caused by unintentional emissions from MVPDs. Established in 1984 after the Commission convened an advisory committee on the issue, the signal leakage rules require MVPDs that operate coaxial cable plants (specifically, what are commonly referred to as “cable systems” as well as additional “non-cable”22 systems) and use the designated aeronautical communications bands at 108 to 137 MHz and 225 to 400 MHz to notify the Commission prior to doing so and to begin a regimen of routine monitoring to identify and correct any instances of signal leakage. These rules were established prior to the current widespread deployment of digital cable technology by cable and non-cable operators, and must be updated to provide adequate protection to aeronautical frequencies. Specifically, with regard to the “offset” requirement for analog signals, the Commission must account for the inability of digital signals to be “offset” relative to aeronautical channels and the implications this has on the interference potential of the signals. In this NPRM, we propose adjustments to our various signal leakage thresholds and modify our procedures for systems utilizing digital transmission to provide adequate protection of the aeronautical channels.

22“Non-cable” systems are those MVPDs that are exempted from the Commission's legal definition of a cable system, but that are subject to some the Commission's cable technical rules based on their technical characteristics.See47 CFR 76.5(a). Examples of these systems include facilities that serve only to retransmit the television signals of one or more television broadcast stations (such as master antenna systems), facilities that serve subscribers without using any public right-of-way (such as private cable operations, hotels, motels, prisons, and so on), and “open video systems” that comply with Section 653 of the Communications Act.See47 CFR 76.5(a)(1) through (5). These systems are required to comply with the Commission's aeronautical frequency notification and signal leakage rules where technically applicable.

III. Discussion

7. Below, we seek comment on proposed modifications to our cable television technical rules to specifically address the provision of digital cable service. The Commission especially seeks comment on the costs and benefits of the rule changes proposed below, along with data supporting the assessments. The Commission further welcomes comment on any other technical rules that may have become unworkable or ineffective as a result of the transition to digital, the diversification of transmission technologies now employed by the cable industry, or other developments in technology.23

23 See47 CFR 76.601 through 640 (“Subpart K—Technical Standards”).

A. Proof of Performance

8. Our proof-of-performance rules require a cable operator to provide a good quality signal to its customers and enable the Commission to evaluate compliance with this requirement.24 These rules include the following: Section 76.601 (testing requirement), § 76.605 (technical standards), § 76.609 (methods and requirements for performing the tests), §§ 76.1704 and 76.1705 (recordkeeping requirements), and § 76.1713 (process for resolving complaints regarding signal quality).25 In keeping with our statutory mandate to update our proof-of-performance rules to reflect improvements in technology,26 we seek comment on updating these rules as they apply to QAM digital systems and non-QAM digital systems. In addition, we consider testing and recordkeeping issues, such as how many points in a system must be tested, how many channels on a system must be tested, and certain ancillary issues.

24We note that the Commission's proof-of-performance rules are used not just by the Commission, but also by local franchising authorities who frequently operate as the first line in addressing constituent complaints against a local cable operator. Local Franchising Authorities enter into agreements with cable operators (among other service providers in their communities), and establish the conditions under which cable operators may use public rights-of-way and other community resources. As a result of this contractual relationship, cable operators may have obligations to local franchising authorities in addition to those required by the Commission. Further, while some franchising has transitioned to the state level, local franchising authorities typically retain control over their local public rights-of-way.See 1992 Orderat 2023, para. 5.

25 See47 CFR 76.601, 605, 609, 1704, 1705, and 76.1713. We also note that the Commission has placed certain technical performance requirements on digital cable operators with more than 750 MHz of activated channel capacity as part of their required support for unidirectional cable products.See47 CFR 76.640(b)(1)(i) (requiring compliance with SCTE 40 2003: “Digital Cable Network Interface Standard”). We draw on this precedent in our proposal regarding QAM-based digital cable proof-of-performance requirements.

26 See47 U.S.C. 544(e).

9. In this NPRM, we specifically address the issue of how to establish digital proof of performance standards that are similar in function to the analog proof of performance standards we adopted in the1992 Order. 27 At the time of the1992 Order,analog cable transmission was predominant and possessed uniform characteristics, which made adoption of technical standards relatively straightforward. As mentioned above, today, QAM transmission is the dominant form of digital cable transmission. Unlike analog cable transmission, however, QAM is not uniform and may appear in a variety of configurations such as 64 QAM, 256 QAM, and potentially 1024 QAM, each requiring different performance standards.28 Further, non-QAM digital systems using such technologies as VDSL, ADSL2+, or transmitting via fiber-optic cables, now make up an increasing percentage of digital systems. We are also confronted with the potential decoupling of the concept of signals of “good technical quality” (i.e.,a highly reliable signal) from the concept of signals of “good visual quality.” In analog transmission, operators would replicate the exact electrical signal provided by the programming provider and the primary factor impacting signal quality was the quality of the electrical transmission (i.e.,a highly reliable signal provides good visual quality). In contrast, with digital transmission, operators will often re-compress the signal to relieve capacity constraints or support different devices.29 If the operator is too aggressive in this re-compression, or if the signal processing equipment in the head-end introduces errors, a viewer may perceive a poor quality of video even though the transmission is perfect. Accordingly, we seek comment on whether we should consider qualitative measures to assess consumer perceptions of video quality. We seek specific comment on the pros and cons of adopting subjective consumer perception measures as opposed to or in addition to adopting objective measurements for assessing signal quality. Overall, we seek to develop the optimal approach to ensure that digital cable subscribers receive good qualitysignals, while imposing a minimal regulatory burden on cable operators, and we seek comment on the costs and benefits associated with our proposals.

27 See47 CFR 76.601, 76.605, and 76.609. These standards measure the electrical characteristics of an analog cable signal on coaxial cable.

28Quadrature Amplitude Modulation, or QAM is a sophisticated modulation technique, using variations in signal amplitude and phase, that allows multiple bits to form a single “symbol,” which is then impressed on a single sine wave. “Quadrature” refers to the fact that four distinct amplitude levels are defined. 16 QAM creates a symbol of 4 bits through 16 distinct signal points, or variations in amplitude and phase (2 raised to the 4th power equals 16). 64 QAM, by extension, conveys 6 bits through 64 distinct signal points (2 raised to the 6th power equals 64). 256 QAM conveys 8 bits per symbol, and 1024 QAM conveys 10.SeeH. Newton,Newton's Telecom Dictionary674, (20th ed. 2004).

29We note that cable operators receive digital signals that are already compressed; therefore, any alteration to the signals is considered recompression.

1. Standards for QAM-Based Digital Cable Systems

10. We propose to adopt the standard established by the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers, the SCTE 40 Digital Cable Network Interface Standard, as the signal quality standard for QAM-based digital cable systems and, in addition, propose to require testing and documentation that demonstrates compliance with the metrics associated with this standard.30 We tentatively conclude that the relatively straightforward SCTE 40 standard provides the best source of the digital proof-of-performance metrics. This standard is currently incorporated into our rules supporting unidirectional digital cable televisions and products, and is thus already followed by a significant portion of QAM digital cable operators.31 In the unidirectional CableCARD proceeding, the Commission, consumer electronics industry, and cable industry determined that standardizing certain attributes of the network would be necessary for such products to be successful.32 The Commission noted that such digital standards were already supported by some systems, with widespread adoption forthcoming, and that such standards encapsulated the common performance metrics well.33 As a result, selection of SCTE 40 2003 was unopposed by any party.34 For these same reasons, we believe that selecting an existing industry-developed standard and well-focused set of measurements for digital cable places little to no additional burden on cable operators yet will ensure that consumers receive good signal quality. The SCTE has subsequently updated the SCTE 40 standard and it has received the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) approval.35 Accordingly, we tentatively conclude that we should incorporate the current version of that standard, SCTE 40 2011, into our rules as minimum signal quality standards for QAM digital cable service. We seek comment on our proposal and tentative conclusions. We also seek comment on any alternative standards that could be used to ensure a good quality digital signal.

30 See Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers ANSI/SCTE 40 2011: Digital Cable Network Interface Standard,available athttp://www.scte.org/documents/pdf/standards/SCTE_40_2011.pdf(“SCTE 40 2011”). SCTE 40 2011 describes the basic technical operational characteristics for digital cable systems using QAM, including such characteristics as relative channel power, carrier-to-noise ratios, and adjacent-channel characteristics.

31 See47 CFR 76.640(b)(1)(i). The rules apply to cable systems operating at 750 MHz or greater.

32 See Implementation of Section 304 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Commercial Availability of Navigation Devices,Report and Order, FCC 03-225, 68 FR 66734, Nov. 28, 2003 (“CableCARD Order”) (incorporated for use by 47 CFR 76.640(b)(1)(i)). In the unidirectional CableCARD proceeding, the Commission incorporated SCTE 40 2003 into its rules. In Section III.D below, we propose to update our incorporation for § 76.640 to the 2011 version of this standard as well, as these versions are substantively the same, and only minor updates to certain parameters, administrative clarifications, and ANSI certification have been changed.

33 See CableCARD Order.

34 Id.

35 See ANSI/SCTE 40 2011 Digital Cable Network Interface Standard,American National Standards Institute, available athttp://webstore.ansi.org/RecordDetail.aspx?sku=ANSI/SCTE+40+2011.

11. We continue to believe that testing and documentation is essential to ensuring compliance and permitting effective enforcement of our proof-of-performance rules. Therefore, in addition to adopting SCTE 40 2011 as the standard for digital proof-of-performance, we propose to require QAM-based cable operators to document the successful completion of proof-of performance testing to demonstrate compliance. SCTE 40 2011 contains tables with entries detailing the metrics for compliance. We tentatively conclude that operators should perform a test for each of the entries located on those tables dealing with the delivery of cable video signals, but not those dealing with upstream or downstream data performance.36 We seek comment on this tentative conclusion. Additionally, similar to the analog context, while operators are required to comply with the standard on every applicable channel, we only propose to require operators to test all channels and document their compliance with the standard's parameters that pertain to the relationships between channels, and to test and document a subset of channels for compliance with the standard's parameters that pertain to individual channel characteristics. Thus, we propose to require the Adjacent Channel Levels (SCTE 40 2011, Table 6) and Nominal Power Levels (SCTE 40 2011, Table 5) to be tested across every QAM channel on the system. Similarly, we propose that the channel-specific standards for normal video channels contained in the Forward Application Transport table (SCTE 40 2011, Table 4)37 be tested only on a subset of channels. We provide more specifics on the number of channels to be sampled, as well as other aspects of testing and recordkeeping, below. We seek comment from cable operators that have implemented periodic testing procedures based on the SCTE 40 standard regarding their experiences with implementing this metric and what procedures they have put into place to measure and ensure compliance with this standard.

36We observe that these parameters primarily relate to two-way services, such as data service and video-on-demand, which we do not propose including within the testing requirements. In SCTE 40, these parameters are contained in Table 2 and Table 3, the Forward and Reverse Data Channel (FDC and RDC) Tables. Table 1, the Digital Cable Network Frequency Bands, indicates the frequency bands in which various channels may operate, and while compliance with this provision is required, testing and documentation of compliance is not.SeeSCTE 40 2011 at Tables 1, 2, 3.

37SCTE 40 defines the Forward Application Transport (FAT) Channel as “the data channel carried from the headend to the terminal device in a modulated channel at a rate of 26.97 or 38.81 Mbps. MPEG-2 transport is used to multiplex video, audio, and data into the FAT channel. The FAT Channel is also considered the “In-band” channel. The FAT channel is used for MPEG-2 compressed video and audio.”SeeSCTE 40 2011 at 9.

12. We seek comment on whether to supplement, or otherwise modify, the SCTE 40 2011 standard for purposes of establishing our digital signal quality standard. In particular, we seek comment on whether we should adopt elements of the SCTE's recent Fourth Edition of its Measurement Recommended Practices for Cable Systems (SCTE Recommended Practice).38 The SCTE Recommended Practice provides a comprehensive and extensive set of best practices covering nearly every potential aspect of cable operation for both analog and digital cable operators. More specifically, the SCTE Recommended Practice provides guidance to cable system operators about how to comply with the SCTE 40 standard. We recognize that, given the scope of the SCTE Recommended Practice, it may be more than is necessary to ensure digital cable consumers receive good quality signals. Nevertheless, we seek comment on whether any particular parts of the SCTE Recommended Practice would be effective as an enhancement to the SCTE 40 2011. In addition, we seek comment on whether other metrics, such as the measurement of visual signal quality or the MPEG stream would be appropriate as an enhancement to the SCTE 40 2011.

38 SeeSociety of Cable Telecommunications Engineers,SCTE Measurement Recommended Practices for Cable Systems(4th ed., 2012) (“SCTE Measurement Recommended Practice”).

2. Non-QAM Cable Systems and Qualitative Signal Quality

13. As noted above, ready sources of widely-followed industry standards exist on which we can base our rules fordigital cable transmission via QAM on hybrid fiber-coax systems. In contrast, non-QAM systems such as the fiber optic, hybrid fiber/twisted pair, and the VDSL and ADSL2+ systems do not possess uniform characteristics. Accordingly, unlike for QAM systems, the SCTE 40 standard is not relevant to non-QAM systems, nor do we have available equivalent industry standards or guidance for each particular new technology. Therefore, we seek comment on how to establish proof of performance standards for non-QAM systems that are functionally comparable to the proof of performance standards proposed above for QAM systems. Similarly, we seek comment on the testing and documentation that should be required to demonstrate compliance with performance standards for non-QAM systems. If we are not able to adopt a uniform proof-of-performance standard for non-QAM systems, we propose, as discussed below, to establish a case-by-case approach for evaluating non-QAM system signal quality.

14. We seek comment on whether there are appropriate industry standards against which to determine signal quality in non-QAM systems. In the absence of any industry-developed standards, is it possible to formulate a uniform signal quality standard, or set of standards, that could apply to the various types of non-QAM systems? In the absence of a uniform standard for measuring the electrical signal characteristics for non-QAM systems, we seek comment on alternative means to objectively measure and evaluate whether a non-QAM digital cable system is providing a “good quality signal.” We also ask commenters to address whether objective methods exist to establish if “good quality signals” are reaching cable subscribers of non-QAM systems, either as a complement to, or in place of, regulating carrier signal quality, including: (1) An analysis of errors in the transmission of the compressed video stream, (2) a means by which to measure perceived visual signal quality, (3) a combination of the two, or (4) some alternative method. For example, we ask commenters to consider whether a standard regarding transmission errors would be useful in addressing audio-related problems, such as a lack of synchronization of the audio and video signal, or closed captioning related problems, such as poor or missing caption data. In this regard, we note that the vast majority of cable systems encode video using MPEG-2 or MPEG-4 AVC.39 We seek comment on the potential of establishing standards based on the transmission of the compressed video stream and whether the technical qualities of the decoded signal, such as bit errors in the MPEG stream, are a possible substitute for or supplement to regulating carrier signal quality. With regard to perceived visual signal quality, we note the problem of “pixelization” or “tearing”40 of a video image that may occur as a result of bandwidth constraints or other non-transmission related network conditions. We seek comment on the suitability of testing visual signal quality, the availability of objective criteria, the availability of equipment, and the desirability of using metrics regarding perceived visual signal quality. Are there any entities currently analyzing and developing standards for visual signal quality? If so, please describe in detail. Finally, we seek comment on whether instead of, or in addition to, adopting objective technical requirements, there are other approaches we should consider to establish standards concerning non-QAM cable operators' signal quality.

39MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 AVC are standards for digitally encoding and compressing video and other signals developed by the Motion Picture Experts Group. MPEG-2 is used by terrestrial broadcast television stations and most QAM-based cable operators with respect to their traditional linear services; MPEG-4 is used by most IPTV operators.

40“Pixelization” and “tearing” describe the appearance to viewers of an underlying loss of signal. Pixelization appears as large blocks of the video image that either turn black or cease updating. Tearing appears as the moving portion of an image continues its motion over a background which has ceased updating, causing part of the image to appear separated from that immediately adjacent to it.

15. To the extent that any type of uniform objective measurement is not possible to encompass the variety of existing or future non-QAM system platforms, we propose to establish a case-by-case approach whereby the non-QAM digital cable systems would demonstrate that they are providing a “good quality signal” to their customers by submitting a plan for Commission approval. As proposed for QAM systems, the non-QAM system proof-of-performance plan must include a testing and documentation component. This case-by-case approach would replace the existing case-by-case approach for cable systems using “non-conventional” techniques.41 We propose to require each non-QAM digital cable system to submit its own proof-of-performance plan for ensuring subscribers receive good quality signals.42 We envi