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CEA To FCC: Spur Cable TV Retailing

ARLINGTON, VA. -The Consumer Electronics Association has asked the Federal Communications Commission to reassess its rules to create market incentives to spur the retail deployment of digital cable equipment.

In comments recently filed in response to a further notice of proposed rulemaking on the commercial availability of navigation devices, CEA charged that current rules “have not fostered the intended development of a competitive commercial market in set-top navigation devices so that consumers can obtain these products from multiple sources.”

CEA blamed the cable industry for “dragging its feet” in providing the essential information and standards that would allow manufacturers to develop and market devices competitive with those provided by cable companies.

“Given the lack of technical specifications for a wide variety of services that are needed to support competition in the provision of navigation devices from independent manufacturers, CEA is convinced that the cable industry seems to have determined it has no responsibility to achieve a commercial market for navigation devices,” the association said.

“The FCC improperly entrusted the cable industry with the responsibility to adopt standards that would facilitate competition and consumer choice. This responsibility is not being met. The ultimate loser here is the American consumer.”

Although the cable industry has made point-of-deployment modules available in the OpenCable process, allowing for the development of competitive devices, it “has pursued proprietary solutions for the delivery of digital cable services with much more vigor and focus,” CEA said.

“The result is that the deployment of proprietary, non-OpenCable compliant set-top boxes has been accelerated, threatening to foreclose the market for navigation devices before any independently supplied devices can be designed or manufactured.”

To “spur the retail market for digital set-top devices,” CEA suggested the FCC take three steps:

  • Immediately require an open and expanded standards-setting process for navigation devices, requiring cable operators to disclose technical information for all new cable services so that all commercially available devices will be able to interoperate with these services.
  • Move up the date to end the distribution of devices with embedded security from 2005 to Jan. 1, 2002.
  • And as soon as possible, require the cable industry to remove the major barriers to the development of that commercial market, such as unfair and unreasonable licensing requirements.