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Shapiro Tells FCC To Keep Cable Deadline

In a formal statement submitted to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Gary Shapiro, CEA’s president/CEO, said the nation’s cable operators should not be granted an extension on their deadline to separate conditional access systems from their digital cable set-top boxes.

The comments were filed after Microsoft last week distanced itself from members of the CE and IT industries by announcing its support for the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) request to delay the July 1 mandate that requires them to market cable set-top boxes designed to accept removable conditional access security cards — known as CableCARDs — instead of building those systems into the hardware, as they currently do.

The Cable industry told the FCC that it is developing new downloadable software solutions for conditional access that will be superior to the CableCARD approach.

The Cable industry has been less than enthusiastic about implementing CableCARD products, in part, because the current system does not allow for two-way communications that would enable customers to directly order video-on-demand and other pay-per-view content. Meanwhile, the CE, IT and cable industries are trying to workout a mutually agreeable solution for a bi-directional CableCARD standard.

“The consumer electronics (CE) industry remains strong and united that the FCC should heed the mandate from Congress to give consumers choice in cable boxes,” Shapiro said. “The cable industry’s Hail Mary pass picking off Microsoft is unfortunate, but symptomatic of an industry that wants to thwart consumer choice.”

“Once again, cable has come forth with a creative and media-savvy way to delay meeting their responsibility to the FCC, the CE industry and consumers. The cable industry should stop playing four corners with this proceeding and instead apply this same level of creativity to work with the CE industry to develop a two-way agreement and meet their commitments.

“We urge the Commission to review the record, stay the course and not be duped by cable’s attempts to stall use of CableCARDs and the creation of a pro-consumer competitive market.”