ATSC 3.0: What Could It Mean for American Consumers?
Next month’s arrival of a new Trump Administration, alongside a Congress ready to hit the ground running, promises a flurry of corrective activity after eight years of Barack Obama.
However, Americans should remain vigilant against regulatory mischief that some are trying to push through unnoticed at the outset of the new Administration and Congress.
Exhibit A: An effort by broadcasters to convince Obama’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to approve an entirely new broadcast television standard known as ATSC 3.0.
In a nutshell, the ATSC 3.0 standard amounts to yet another new federal action upon a private marketplace and a handout to a favored industry that could inflict significant and unnecessary costs, ultimately to be paid by consumers.
Under current law, cable and satellite television providers must carry local television stations, so the regulatory scales are already tipped in broadcasters’ favor. The proposed new mandate could extend the scope of providers’ obligations requiring them to transmit broadcast signals in the new standard to the public.
As a result, consumers who currently receive local stations over the air or via cable or satellite providers suddenly would face the possibility of incurring the cost of new equipment in order to receive the new signal, as current equipment does not support the new standard. Obviously, millions of consumers who are already struggling to make ends meet could thus be forced to pay – whether through higher monthly subscription fees or direct charge – for new equipment for a “benefit” that may not be needed or even desired.
Satellite and cable providers could also face technological hurdles to accommodate the new standard, which could inevitably lead to additional costs and quality assurance issues. Ultimately, subscribers could have to pay those costs and endure those potential technological glitches as well.
Keep in mind that all of these costs and changes could be imposed without a sober cost/benefit analysis from the FCC. It’s precisely the sort of hasty, top-down, crony capitalist federal regulatory action that has tested the limits of American tolerance over the past decade.
Technological advance is a good thing, whether in the TV market or elsewhere. But that’s something that should occur as the result of market forces, not through fast-tracked federal regulatory action riddled by too many uncertainties.