Why is only a single East or West Coast feed available for digital DNS service?

Viewers only qualify for DNS feeds if they can’t get local stations that broadcast the four major networks or they have portable satellite dishes for boats or recreational vehicles. Congress passed STELA, the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act, to ensure that viewers could get their local stations in cable and satellite television programming packages. One of the basic tenets of the law is the “no distant where local” rule that prohibits rebroadcasters from offering DNS stations when local network-affiliate stations are available.

Differences between DNS and LIL programming

Cable customers get programming packages based on their ZIP codes and access to broadcast television in their geographic regions. LIL or Local into Local programming supersedes DNS network feeds from major affiliates in New York or Los Angeles. These major stations fall into the category of Distant Network Signals, and communications customers can only get these signals when no local options are available.

Time differences cause assignment to East or West Coast feeds

Cable companies assign either a West Coast or East Coast feed to keep subscription service commensurate with the time-lines that local broadcasters follow. For example, prime time on the East Coast occurs three hours earlier than in California, so the nation’s television broadcasts are apportioned throughout the country so that broadcast times only vary by one hour. Pertinent facts about DNS service include the following information:

  • New DNS customers never get access to DNS stations from both coasts.
  • Viewers can change their feeds if they move east or west.
  • RV and boat owners can circumvent their assigned feeds by traveling outside their home areas or applying for DNS feeds from both coasts.
  • Many customers previously had feeds from both coasts, and these customers’ cable plans were grandfathered after regulations changed so that they could keep both feeds by paying a premium.
  • People who disconnect grandfathered service for more than 180 days must resubmit paperwork and will only qualify for an East or West Coast feed.
  • People who change their service to get HD programming must also follow the new rules to obtain service.

Details about DNS service

Distant Network Services allow viewers to receive the four major television networks, FOX, ABC, NBC and CBS, no matter where they live or travel. Of course, all television depends on advertising revenue that comes from both national advertisers and local merchants. Cable companies must carry available local network affiliates so that these stations receive sufficient advertising revenue to maintain broadcasts.

  • If local viewers could obtain their signals from anywhere in the country, some stations would suffer lost advertising revenue.
  • The FCC rulings and regulations force cable companies to offer local stations in their programming packages.
  • Viewers can obtain DNS feeds from either the East or West Coast based on ZIP codes when they can’t get local network-affiliate broadcasts.
  • Special waivers are available when people subscribe to cable services for their mobile vehicles or in states where laws allow them choices DNS broadcasts.

People who live in fixed locations but can’t get one of the network signals qualify for access to DNS feeds from the East or West Coast depending on the time zones where they live. Some viewers qualify for DNS services when they live in remote areas where available local signals are typically blocked by geographical features. Signal tests determine whether these customers qualify for DNS service instead of receiving LIL stations.

Trucks, RV owners and boaters

People who own vehicles that are used extensively for travel often want to obtain television service, so cable companies allow these viewers to obtain DNS service. Some people routinely travel between East and West Coast locations, and these viewers can apply for waivers to get DNS service from both coasts. Essentially, all programming rules are designed to ensure that viewers see relevant local ads depending on where they’re living when they watch television.

Federal law allows new cable customers who qualify for DNS service to get only an East or West Coast feed because people could view shows before prime-time broadcasts in their areas and spoil the suspense or encourage their friends not to watch certain shows because they already know what happens. One prime example of this phenomenon was a presidential election where the winner was projected even before the polls had closed on the West Coast. Viewers who had feeds from both coasts can keep their services because of grandfathering, but new customers must subscribe to feeds from one coast or the other.

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