WASHINGTON — Small and midsized cable operators have
told the Federal Communications Commission they need
some help with the agency’s proposal to allow them to
encrypt their digital-basic tier.
The FCC is not making them encrypt signals, but that
is not the point. The American Cable Association, in a
pitch to FCC staffers, said many of its smaller, independent
MSO members are already operating all-digital systems
— with more making that move — and that they
are interested in scrambling the digital-basic tier.
But the requirement to supply free set-tops to some
customers is a burden that could discourage operators
from making the digital switch, the ACA said. It wants
the FCC to allow them to supply the lowest-cost boxes
possible, including ones that do not separate surfing
and security and thus run afoul of the FCC’s ban on integrated
To demonstrate their interest in going digital, ACA
surveyed its members and offered the following statistics
on the 49.5% of members either operating a digital
system or planning to do so:
15.1% (eight in total) operate at least one system
that uses quadrature-amplitude modulation to encode
and transmit signals.
81.1% (43 in total) plan on upgrading at least one
QAM-based system to all-digital within three years.
66.0% (35 in total) said they would be interested in
encrypting the basic tier of their current or planned alldigital
52.8% (28 in total) said that they would not be willing
to satisfy the FCC’s proposed conditions in order to
be able to encrypt the basic tier.