FCC Adds One Year to Set-Top Ban


Cable operators won an additional 12 months before they must stop deploying new set-tops boxes with integrated channel-security features.

Late Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission unanimously agreed to postpone the ban until July 2007, coupled with a series of deadline-specific reporting requirements related to, among other things, the development of downloadable security for use by cable MSOs and third-party set-top makers.

The FCC vote came on chairman Michael Powell’s last day in office. The agency’s rules are designed to promote a competitive set-top-box market, allowing subscribers to buy boxes at retail rather than leasing them from operators. The FCC rules do not apply to direct-broadcast satellite providers.

The cable industry pushed for the delay, saying that cable-operator reliance on only CableCARD-enabled set-tops would raise box prices without providing new benefits for subscribers.

The consumer-electronics industry and computer companies fought cable hard, saying that MSOs were trying to maintain a firm grip on the set-top market in effort to use navigation devices to shield video revenue from Web-based competition.