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An innovative way to beam television signals into homes in competition with cable and satellite has come a big step closer to market following a recent Federal Communications Commission decision to award a portion of wireless spectrum for what it describes as "multichannel and data distribution service." Paradoxically, that same decision could sideline the company that led the push for the new service.

In 1994, Austin, Texas-based Northpoint Technology began lobbying the FCC to approve its idea to share the spectrum used by direct broadcast satellite services EchoStar and DirecTV to deliver "high-quality, digital multichannel video and high-speed Internet service" with local programming in 210 local markets, all for $40 per month. That kind of service would be a very serious challenge to both cable and to DBS, which currently does not offer local channels in about 170 markets.

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