Operators Become Biggest CableCard Users

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The country’s 10 largest cable operators have deployed more than 650,000 set-top boxes with CableCard devices since July 1 -- already more than double the number of CableCards that have been put into use in the last three years, according to the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.

As of early September, those 10 companies, which represent 90% of the cable subscribers in the United States, had deployed 278,000 individual CableCards for use with non-operator-supplied consumer electronics, like TiVo digital video recorders.

That’s an increase of 2.6% over the past three months, up from 271,000 in June, according to the NCTA. The trade group disclosed the figures in a Sept. 24 letter to the FCC providing an update on the progress of CableCard deployments.

With only a handful of exceptions, cable operators have been required to use CableCards in their digital set-tops since the Federal Communications Commission's so-called integration ban went into effect July 1.

The FCC’s integration ban is supposed to stimulate competition in the retail market for devices that can connect to cable networks, by requiring both cable operators and consumer-electronics makers to rely on a common separated-security solution. The removable CableCard devices, which can cost $50 or more, are an interim solution until the cable industry can develop the software-based Downloadable Conditional Access System (DCAS) specification


Earlier this month, Comcast said it planned to take the FCC to federal court after the agency for a second time rejected the operator's request to have three low-end set-top models exempt from the integrated set-top ban.

As of Aug. 31, excluding its own set-tops, Comcast had 145,843 CableCards installed in “active customer homes.” Time Warner Cable had 44,015, Charter Communications had 22,647 and Cox Communications had 21,151. Cablevision Systems had 13,180 CableCard subscribers as of Sept. 10, according to the NCTA.

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