No blanket reprieve on cable box rule


The FCC's order opening up the market for cable set-top boxes goes into effect today, as scheduled, with the Media Bureau late Friday issuing an announcement that it had denied a request from the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) to grant a blanket waiver for all cable operators.

Instead, the FCC granted a waiver applying to all cable systems which are currently all digital, or plan to be all digital by February 17, 2009, saying that will facilitate the DTV conversion. It also deferred enforcement for small systems who can demonstrate that they have placed orders for set-top boxes that comply with the new rule, but were not able to get their orders filled in time to comply with today's deadline.

The new rule requires cable operators to separate security functions by putting them into a "CableCARD" so that consumers have the option of buying their own boxes, rather than having to rent them from their MSO. "The Bureau's actions today implement the statutory requirements to facilitate a competitive market for set-top boxes in a reasonable and consistent manner," declared FCC Chairman Kevin Martin in a statement supporting the Media Bureau actions.