One of the biggest headaches for cable operators - and their customers - is dealing with TV stations to negotiate retransmission consent. Signals that are free to receive with an antenna cost cable operators up to $5.00 per subscriber per month to place on their systems. Cable companies - particularly small, independent operators - have almost no leverage in these negotiations. In many cases where communities are up to 100 miles from the TV broadcast towers, the only way for consumers to watch these channels is through their cable operators. And as nationwide experience with temporary blackouts has shown, customers react angrily to losing their access to NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX, and other broadcast networks.
The result: cable operators are forced to pay what the broadcasters demand, meaning cable bills that are $15-20 higher than they would be without the broadcasters and their networks demands.
An east coast-based non-profit organization called Locast is hoping to shake up that paradigm by serving as a "digital translator station" that is effectively allowed under US copyright laws.
This article in the New York Times does a great job of outlining the issues involved and the Locast team's motivations for launching the service. Locast is hoping to continue expanding coverage beyond the major markets they serve now, while at the same time keeping an eye on the potential for lawsuits aimed at shutting them down.
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