Cable Ops Express Concerns over Set-Top Energy Efficiency Standard

Larger MSOs Say It's Premature and Misplaced; Smaller Providers Claim It Would Negative Impacts

Larger cable operators told the Department of Energy Tuesday that it should stop ignoring the "landmark" Consumer Electronics Association/MVPD set-top box energy efficiency agreement and not try to supplant market forces with its own standard. For their part, smaller MSOs said that if DOE does come up with its own standard, it should take their particular challenges into account.

In comments to DOE, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association said that the department should first give that agreement, struck last December, a chance to work since DOE's rules prohibit new energy conservation standards unless they would yield better results than produced by market forces and nonregulatory approaches, which would include voluntary industry agreements.

"Just the first phase of its commitments when fully realized will result in annual residential electricity savings of at least $1.5 billion, reducing carbon emissions by the equivalent of four power plants annually, years before any DOE rules could take effect," NCTA said.

NCTA essentially conceded that there is not much of a retail market for the boxes, which it used in this case to help make its case against the standard.

NCTA argued that while DOE usually comes up with its own test procedures to provide guidance to consumers, "set-top boxes are not consumer products covered by the Energy Policy and Conservation Act" because "nearly all set-top boxes are purchased by a multichannel video programming distributor, not by consumers."

In separate comments, the American Cable Association said it's all for energy efficiency, but that DOE's proposal that cable operators would have to test their boxes would be an undue burden on the smaller operators it represents.

"The success of DOE's mission to spur the development and deployment of more energy-efficient set-top boxes depends on its ability to leverage industry's expertise and capabilities," said ACA. "Requiring small cable operators to set up elaborate testing facilities and hire expert engineers to test the energy use of scores of small-scale software configurations would not meaningfully contribute to this success. It would, however, impose significant costs on the segment of the industry that can least afford them."

ACA suggested that if DOE does go ahead with its own standard, it should require the hardware manufacturer to do the testing and not define manufacturer as any party that loads software onto a set-top.

"Most small cable operators do not have the technical, financial, or operational resources to perform energy-usage testing on set-top boxes, let alone to do so each and every time they make a new variation in software," said ACA.