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NCTA’s STB Plan Is Panned

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association touched off a firestorm when it announced what it called an “industrywide initiative” for the sale of cable set-top boxes at retail.

The association said its proposal for the distribution of cable boxes would provide “customers with the option of purchasing rather than leasing set-top boxes,” but also gives cable companies the right to choose manufacturers and distribute boxes through their traditional direct leasing programs. Critics, including the Consumer Electronics Association said the new initiative promotes proprietary systems and not an open market.

The plan also does away with the use of point of deployment (POD) security cards, opting instead to use embedded security systems made available to cable operators in decoding equipment. This would effectively keep consumers from taking the boxes with them when the move. To lessen criticism to that weakness, the NCTA proposal adds a provision stating that cable companies would buy back the equipment at reasonable depreciation levels.

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