The following are from some notes that I had made in November:
Part 76.56 of the FCC regulations state:
(d) Availability of signals. (1) Local commercial television stations carried in fulfillment of the requirements of this section shall be provided to every subscriber of a cable system. Such signals shall be viewable via cable on all television receivers of a subscriber which are connected to a cable system by a cable operator or for which a cable operator provides a connection
While those rules were written before the advent of commercial digital TV, the FCC Report & Order Regarding Carriage of Digital Television Broadcast Signals (FCC Document 01-22) clarifies this:
102. In the context of analog must carry, it has been the Commission's view that the Act contemplates there be
one basic service tier.308 We believe that in the context of the new digital carriage requirements, it is consistent with the
statutory language to require that a broadcaster's digital signal must be available on a basic tier such that all broadcast
signals are available to all cable subscribers at the lowest priced tier of service, as Congress envisioned. The basic service
tier, including any broadcast signals carried, will continue to be under the jurisdiction of the local franchising authority, and
as such, will be rate regulated if the local franchising authority has been certified under Section 623 of the Act. 309
Now there a couple of "gotchas" here that might apply.
- Many of these cable regulations do not apply to smaller cable systems (that might be the case here).
- It could be that they are not scrambling these channels, but that there is a filter in place that effectively keeps them from your home. The QAM channels used are frequently at higher frequencies and the filters installed to restrict access to "expanded basic" may be blocking them (TW in my area has recently been changing these filters to pass the QAM channels).
A final comment: Cable systems (particularly small ones) may not have really come to grips with these requirements. Their mentality has been that this is "digital cable" and their people tend to deal with it that way - not really knowing what is required.