ACA Praises FCC Decision To Allow Integrated HD Boxes

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The American Cable Association gave the Federal Communications Commission a shout-out Thursday for officially ruling that cable operators can lease low-cost, basic-function HD set-tops with security functions.

The FCC voted Thursday to change some of the rules implementing its mandate that security and channel-surfing functions must be separated in cable digital set-tops. But after issuing a number of waivers for integrated HD set-tops in the interest of spurring high-definition TV service, the FCC voted unanimously Thursday to allow low-cost boxes (actually both standard-definition and HD so long as they were one-way).

"ACA commends the FCC for recognizing that the burden on independent cable operators to procure expensive HD set-top boxes under the CableCARD regime not only slowed their analog-to-digital TV transition but also tied up valuable bandwidth that could not be allocated to broadband or other advanced services," said American Cable Association president Matt Polka in a statement. "Today's laudable FCC action puts the country on the right path and deserves broad support from industry and consumers."

In granting an individual waiver to CableOne last May for an integrated HD set-top, the FCC made it clear it found a public interest in promoting HD adoption and migration to digital via the waiver. It is taking the opportunity of its revamp of the set-top regime to officially add the presumption that it is in the public interest.

The FCC had initially said that its waiver policy for low-cost, one-way boxes would not include ones with HD capability. But CableOne argued that almost all cable nets would be offered in HD, and that granting the waiver would promote the sale of HD sets.

The FCC issued several waivers at the bureau level and indicated that meant it had decided that allowing the basic-function HD boxes was in the public interest. The FCC vote Thursday made that official.