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Consumer Information

What Cable is now is not what Cable television was when originally developed over 70 years ago. Cable television (originally called CATV or
community antenna television) was developed in the late 1940’s for communities unable to receive TV signals because of terrain or distance from TV stations. Cable television system operators located antennas in areas with good reception, picked up broadcast station signals and then distributed them by coaxial cable to subscribers for a fee.

In 1950, cable systems operated in only 70 communities in the United States. These systems served 14,000 homes. Beginning in the 1980s, and without the assistance of the federal government, the cable industry made major investments in infrastructure and cable programming that profoundly changed the way we are informed and entertained. In the 1990s, the cable industry introduced the cable modem that made high-speed internet access a reality. By December 2011, there were more than 5300 systems serving approximately 60 million subscribers in more than 34,000 communities. Cable systems are operating in every state of the United States and in many other countries, such as Canada and Australia, and throughout Europe and much of East Asia.
Channel capacity in the industry has increased dramatically in recent years; most cable subscribers now receive service in excess of 100 channels. On average, cable systems offer about 80 expanded basic service channels as well as more than 50 digital channels.

The channel capacity of a cable system makes it possible for a cable television system operator to provide many services. In addition to over-the-air television broadcast signals, cable systems offer a wide variety of programming networks, including, for example, news, weather, business information, movies, sports, general and special entertainment services, and programming designed for specific audiences such as children, women, and ethnic and racial groups. Cable systems also offer programming on an on-demand and pay-per-view basis, and increasingly are allowing their subscribers to access programming on mobile devices. Over 90 percent of all cable subscribers have access to systems that offer a full-range of telecommunications services, including high-speed Internet access and telephone service.

Some cable operators also create their own local programming and provide access channels for public and institutional uses. They also provide leased access channels for “rent” to those wishing to show specific programs. Electronic banking, shopping, utility meter reading, and home security are some of the home services that are possible using the two-way transmission capabilities of cable television systems.

Links

National Cable and Telecommunications Association 

Nebraska Public Service Commission

Nebraska Legislature 

Federal Communications Commission (FCC)

FCC’s Cable Services Bureau

Code of Federal Regulations

Cable in the Classroom 

CableLabs’ Go2Broadband

National Telecommunications and Information Administration, Dept. of Commerce

U.S. House Of Representatives

U.S. Senate

Control Your TV 

TV Guidelines  

Cable Center  

Glossary of Terms

  • Access Channels: Cable channels made available to community members, either for free or lease basis. Cable operators aren’t allowed editorial control on these channels, except to refuse programming with obscene or indecent content.
  • Access Corporation: Corporations within a municipality created to operating that municipality’s access channel(s).
  • AC / Alternating Current: Electric current that constantly switches its direction giving a definite plus and minus wave form at fixed intervals.
  • Amplifier: A device that increases amplitude of electrical signals. Cable systems use amplifiers to restore the amplitude of television signals.
  • Analog: Signals sent as electromagnetic waves.
  • Bandwidth: This term has several definitions. First, it refers to range of viable frequencies a cable television systems may carry. It also is used as a measure of the information-carrying capacity of a communication channel. Lastly, bandwidth refers to the speed at which data can be transferred.
  • Black Box: A cable television descrambler capable of receiving, converting, and decoding scrambled signals without proper authorization. Black boxes are illegal.
  • Blackout: The non-broadcast of a live event imposed by the event’s sponsor(s).
  • Broadband: Used to denote evolving digital technologies that provide consumers with a single-switched facility offering access to voice, video, video-on-demand, high-speed data, and interactive information delivery.
  • Basic Service Tier (BST): Lowest level of cable service available, and the only currently regulated rates.
  • Coaxial Cable: Cables with a conducting outer metal tube insulated from a central conducting core. They transmit electronic signals.
  • Community antenna TV (CATV): Cable television.
  • Descrambler: Electronic circuits that restores an intentionally scrambled video signal to its original standard form. This technology is legal if the device is authorized by the cable operator, but it is illegal to perpetrate cable theft.
  • Designated Market Area (DMA): Nielsen Media Research established standards to determine the market area for a broadcast station.
  • Digital Cable Terminal (DCT): Devices that receive analog and digital signals and convert them to analog, then transmit analog signals to the TV.
  • Digital Cable TV: Cable company service which adds channels to current programming including pay-per-view, music, etc.
  • Digital: Represents the amplitude and frequence of analog with codes consisting of ones and zeros. Digital technology allows for compression so that more channels can be carried. Cable operators who use digital technology often offer digital cable television, high-speed data, and digital telephone services.
  • Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS): Satellite service which can be received using an antenna on the subscriber’s premises.
  • Frequency: Varying physical quantities that produce varying degrees of tone and pitch in a voice signal.
  • Ghost: Weak images of received pictures, offset either to the left or right of the primary image, usually caused by signal path reflections.
  • High Definition Television (HDTV): Extremely high quality television signal with picture resolution nearly equal to that of film.
  • Hertz: (Abbr. H) A term used as an indication of frequency.
  • Input/Output (I/O): Transmitting data between peripherals unit and more centrally located equipment.
  • Interactive TV: This is a two-way video-on-demand service that provides movies and other programs instantly upon request.
  • LAN: Local Area Network.
  • License Amendment: Changes in the terms and conditions of an existing license.
  • License or Franchise Renewal: Renews the authorization to operate a cable system.
  • License or Franchise: Authorizes the construction or operation of a cable system.
  • Local Public Access Cable service operators have community access channels where announcements, events, and public service announcements can be posted.
  • MegaHertz (MHz): One million cycles per second.
  • Must Carry: Channels the cable operator is required to provide on the basic service tier in that area.
  • Obscenity and Indecency: The Supreme Court set forth a test used to determine whether individual programming constitutes obscene or indecent speech. More information may be found on a fact sheet at the FCC’s website.
  • Overbuild: When a competing cable operator builds a cable network system in an area already serviced by a cable operator.
  • Parental Control: Allows parents to lock-out selected services.
  • Parental Lock Capability: Some televisions allow users to block access to channels.
  • Pay-Per-View (PPV): Users are charged a price for individual programs requested, typically a movie or special event.
  • PSA: Public Service Announcements are often referred to as PSAs. The FCC defines a PSA as a short video recording presented by a nonprofit organization which attempts to persuade the audience to take some specific action or adopt a favorable view towards some service, institution, issue or cause. Also it is a media message designed to promote positive actions such as those encouraging safety or health.
  • Premium Channels: Channels not included in a cable operator’s regular service tiers such as HBO or Showtime.
  • Scrambler: Device used to alter a signal so that it can’t be viewed on a normal TV unless another electronic device is attached to the subscriber’s set to unscramble the picture.
  • Snow: Heavy random noise.
  • Static: Electrical discharges in the atmosphere such as lightning, corona, etc.
  • Subscribers: Customers who pay fees for cable television service.
  • Transponder: Combination receiver and transmitter on a satellite that relays signals transmitted to it back to earth on a different frequency.
  • Tuner: Used to select one signal from a number of signals in a given frequency range.
  • TV Guide Interactive: A program of convenient options offered in menu format on the TV screen.
  • V-Chip: Built-in system allows users to screen out programs they do not want household members to watch.
  • Video On Demand: Offers movies and events to be viewed immediately after selection.
  • Volt: Unit of electromotive force. It is the difference of potential required to make a current of one ampere flow through resistance of one ohm.