Cable Seeks Reversal of Set-Top Order

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Washington -- The cable industry wants a court to block
federal rules that ban the distribution of certain set-top boxes, saying the ban would
violate the industry's protections in the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

Earlier this year, the Federal Communications Commission
banned cable operators from using integrated set-tops on Jan. 1, 2005. Integrated boxes
contain circuitry in which signal security and channel-selection functions are
intertwined.

But the FCC said the ban was needed to achieve
Congress' goal of developing retail competition for set-tops, primarily by
transforming security functions into a module that can be inserted into boxes.

In a brief filed last Monday with the U.S. Court of Appeals
for the District of Columbia Circuit, the National Cable Television Association said the
FCC overstepped its authority because the ban would promote theft of cable-programming
services.

The NCTA said Congress instructed the FCC that rules
designed to promote set-top competition should not jeopardize cable-signal security.

In another decision, the FCC decided its set-top rules
would cover hybrid analog-digital boxes, which cable operators expect to use until the
transition to digital service is complete -- an event that could be a decade or more in
the offing.

Again, the NCTA objected to the inclusion of hybrid boxes
under the rules, citing the same signal-security concerns.

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