Thursday, June 28, 2007

FCC Acts on Waivers for Integrated Set-Top Box Rules

The FCC acted on several set-top box waiver requests seeking to delay implementation of a rule that requires cable set-top boxes distributed after July 1, 2007 to separate the "security" and "navigation" functions.

The FCC said its statutory requirements aim to facilitate a competitive market for set-top boxes in a reasonable and consistent manner. Separation of security functions will allow consumers to pick the products they want.

The action from the FCC's Media Bureau included the following:

  • Granted an Omnibus Waiver of the integration ban for MVPDs currently all digital or going all digital by February 17, 2009. An all-digital conversion will facilitate the DTV transition, enable expanded service offerings, promote efficient use of the spectrum, deliver broadband services, spur competitive entry, and expand universal service.

  • Deferred Enforcement of the Integration Ban for Crosslake, Minnesota d/b/a Crosslake Communications. The Media Bureau noted the difficulties that small cable operators may face in complying with the July 1, 2007 deadline for separated security because manufacturers prioritize orders from the largest providers. The Bureau indicated that the Commission would defer enforcement of that deadline for those small cable operators who can demonstrate that they have placed orders for set-top boxes that comply but that their orders will not be fulfilled in time for them to comply with the deadline.

  • Denied NCTA's (National Cable & Telecommunications Association)
    request for a waiver of the integration ban for all cable operators. The Bureau finds the arguments NCTA's makes are not adequately novel or changed from assertions that it has made to support previous extension requests to justify further relief and it does not reflect developments in the market.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin stated: "A previous Commission required cable operators to separate their security functions putting them into a CableCARD, which can be used in televisions and set-top boxes made by other manufacturers. By separating out security functions, the Commission hoped a viable market for truly cable ready televisions and set-top boxes could flourish. Back then, Congress and the Commission envisioned consumers being able to walk into their local retail store and buy televisions and set-top boxes from any manufacturer that would work on any cable system. This is a goal that I share and believe we are a big step closer to with today's rulings. In a new era with a competitive set-top box market, consumers will enjoy greater choice and reap the benefits of exciting and innovative features -- such as the ability to watch Internet videos or view slideshows of family vacations on their tv sets."

In a separate press statement, Verizon said the waiver enables it to continue its focus on deploying its competitive FiOS TV service and developing additional innovative features.