Lathen Helping S-A on Set-Top Issue


Deborah Lathen, former chief of the Federal Communications Commission's Cable
Services Bureau, is helping Scientific-Atlanta Inc. on digital set-top-box
issues before the agency.

S-A and many cable operators are fighting a January 2005 mandate that would
bar MSOs from introducing new integrated set-top boxes into the market.

In 1998, the FCC said it wanted new MSO-supplied boxes to physically separate
encryption components from normal channel-surfing functions. The mandate was
designed to promote the retail sale of set-tops.

Lathen and several S-A executives made the rounds at the FCC March 11 to
brief various officials on the January 2005 sunset.

S-A wants the commission, before allowing the 2005 deadline to occur, to
examine the effects of the recent cable/digital-TV interoperability agreement
between major MSOs and consumer-electronics manufacturers.

The vendor is also urging the agency to review how well integrated boxes sell
in retail outlets.

On the same day, Mark Coblitz, Comcast Corp.'s senior vice president of
strategic planning, also met with FCC officials urging elimination of the ban on
integrated boxes.

Comcast and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association argued
that nonintegrated boxes would needlessly impose cost burdens on consumers who
lease set-tops.

"Retaining the current prohibition would impose substantial additional costs
on consumers while achieving no significant consumer benefits," Comcast outside
counsel James Casserly said in an FCC filing Wednesday.