CEA Keeping Up Pressure on Set-Tops


Cable operators are exaggerating the costs and complications associated with opening the digital set-top-box market in a way that would allow consumers to buy units from Best Buy Co. Inc. and Circuit City Stores Inc., according to the Consumer Electronics Association.

MSOs are facing a July 2006 deadline to deploy new digital boxes that function with CableCards. But the industry is resisting, saying that the cost to lease boxes would rise without any offsetting benefits.

The CEA -- members of which want to stock their shelves with cable set-tops -- continued to question cable’s motives and the logic of the industry’s position. The trade group, for example, believes that the mass production of CableCard-enabled boxes will drive prices down, not up.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association’s “misguided belief that prices will remain high even after full-scale production defies the laws of economics, the marketplace and common sense,” the CEA said in a Dec. 21 letter to the Federal Communications Commission.

The NCTA, Comcast Corp. and Charter Communications Inc. want the FCC to either eliminate the ban on integrated boxes or to postpone the July 2006 deadline.

Cable wants the FCC to make a decision soon because if the ban is not lifted, MSOs would need to begin placing orders for CableCard boxes in the months ahead to ensure a ready inventory by July 2006.