CEA Urges FCC to Stick with Box Ban


Consumer Electronics Association president Gary Shapiro said Monday that the Federal Communications Commission should ignore Microsoft Corp.’s support for the cable industry and impose the July 2006 ban on cable-supplied integrated set-top boxes.

“The cable industry's `Hail Mary’ pass picking off Microsoft is unfortunate but symptomatic of an industry that wants to thwart consumer choice,” Shapiro said in a prepared statement.

Last week, Microsoft, a CEA member, supported cable’s request for a delay of the ban in a joint letter to the FCC with Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Cable.

Under the ban, cable companies would have to deploy new set-tops that function with the CableCARD, a conditional-access device for one-way digital-cable content.

The cable industry said the mandate would raise box prices without providing consumers with new benefits. CEA members and computer firms have told the FCC that the ban would help a competitive navigation-device market to flourish.

"We urge the commission to review the record, stay the course and not be duped by cable's attempts to stall use of CableCARDs and the creation of a pro-consumer competitive market,” Shapiro said.

“The fact that cable operators have deployed more than 27,000 CableCARDs to consumers who have purchased 'digital-cable-ready' sets demonstrates that the industry is committed to deploying CableCARDs upon request, as FCC rules require,” NCTA general counsel Neal Goldberg said in a prepared statement.

“The cable industry is asking the FCC to eliminate or defer the effective date of an anti-consumer rule that would require cable operators to redesign and deploy new set-top boxes accommodating CableCARDs,” he added.

Goldberg continued, “This rule would raise the cost of cable operators' leased set-top boxes with no corresponding benefit to consumers, since leased boxes are only used in cable operators' service areas and do not need the portability that CableCARDs enable. In this case, the CEA has left the 'consumer' out of CEA.”