I assume that:
- By "HDTV" you mean either 1080i or 720p.
- By "in the clear" you mean that the CATV company delivers to each subscriber an exact digital replica of the HTDV digital stream that it receives from the station's transmitter.
- You are referring to the primary-channel DTV stream (not a subchannel) of a "local commercial television station" (as defined in 47 CFR 76.55(c)) which also transmits a simultaneous analog signal.
Under these assumptions:
- Current FCC regulations applicable to mandatory carriage ("must- carry") do not require a CATV to carry the HDTV stream, even if said regulations require carriage of the analog signal.
- Carriage of the HDTV stream pursuant to a retransmission- consent agreement between the station licensee and a CATV is subject to the terms of the agreement, not FCC regulation.Given the history of the FCC's experience with must-carry, I can understand its reticence. Historically, every must-carry rule that the FCC has promulgated on its own motion (without specific Congressional authority) has been swatted down by the courts.
The FCC's current must-carry rules were authorized by Congress, but even then, they just barely survived court challenge. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which upheld them in a fractured 5-4 decision.
Congress is indeed "monitoring" the situation, but they don't seem to be doing much about signal carriage rules.
Effective February 17, 2009, all full-power broadcast stations must cease analog broadcasts and convert to digital exclusively. Under current law, CATV companies will then be required to carry only the primary-channel digital stream, but they will not be required to carry subchannels. The FCC is considering imposing mandatory carriage for all subchannels ("multicasting"), but it hasn't taken formal action.Neal McLain