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Cable Companies Led by Comcast Get Relief From Signal-Carry Rule

June 12 (Bloomberg) -- Regulators will let a rule lapse that allows more than 12 million U.S. cable subscribers with analog television sets to receive signals from broadcast stations without having digital converter boxes.

The Federal Communications Commission in an order distributed by e-mail today said it would let the rule expire at midnight.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association wanted an end to the rule, which the FCC put in place in 2007 as TV stations replaced wave-like analog signals with digital broadcasts that use less spectrum. The rule requires cable systems to offer analog and digital streams of TV broadcasts.

Since 2007 the share of U.S. households dependent on analog equipment has dropped from 45 percent to just over 20 percent, the Washington-based trade group with members led by largest cable company Comcast Corp. said in a June 8 filing at the FCC.

Cable operators will provide low-cost converter boxes that let customers view digital broadcast streams on analog sets, according to the filing. Consumers Union had requested in a June 7 filing that the FCC order cable companies to provide the boxes at no cost.

The National Association of Broadcasters in a March 12 FCC filing said the rule should be extended for three years so viewers don’t lose access to programming. Members of the Washington-based trade group include the Walt Disney Co.’s ABC, News Corp.’s Fox, Comcast Corp.’s NBC and CBS Corp.

To contact the reporter on this story: Todd Shields in Washington at tshields3@bloomberg.net;

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bernard Kohn at bkohn2@bloomberg.net

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