FCC Votes to Lift Ban On Digital Basic Tier Encryption
Contains three-year sunset on NCTA commitment, but with Media Bureau able to extend it.
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 10/12/2012 3:59:18 PM
Commissioners were said to be working on statements at press time and the chairman was said to be pushing to get the order out by end of the day. According to a high-placed source, the vote will be 5-0, but with some concurrences.
FCC chairman Julius Genachowski circulated an order in August allowing cable operators to encrypt basic tiers that incorporated some accommodations for IP-enabled devices -- like Boxee -- offered up by cable operators to help secure passage of the item.
In a July 25 letter to the FCC, in response to complaints by Boxee and others about the inability of such devices to access programming on basic tiers once they are encrypted, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) said that it thought the concerns were misplaced, but that its six largest members would make a three-year commitment to ensuring those devices could receive a signal through one of two options, both pertaining to retail boxes.
According to a source familiar with the order, it does include a three-year sunset on that commitment, but allows the Media Bureau to extend it. That did not sit well with the Republican members of the commission, according to an FCC source, who thought that decision should have to be made at the commission lever. That was said to be one of the reasons there will be partial concurrences rather than unqualified yes votes. The other concern is over a severability clause that means if a court strikes down any portion of the FCC decision, all of it is invalidated and the ban would be back in force.
The commission signaled last fall it wanted to remove the ban, which cable operators had asked it to do.
The FCC adopted the rule prohibiting cable operators from scrambling digital basic tiers so that viewers with cable-ready sets would not have to buy or rent a set-top box. Now, because of the cost savings to cable operators, the reduction in pollution from fewer truck rolls, theft-of-service prevention, and the general lack of complaints in markets where the agency had granted waivers -- most prominently to Cablevision Systems in New York in 2010 -- the chairman signaled it was time to lift the ban.
I personally would not be greatly affected by this, Just slightly inconvenienced. We have 3 sets, 2 have boxes and 1 (in the guest bedroom) doesn't. Since that set is only used occasionally, I wouldn't bother to pay for a box for that set. However, I'm sure there are quite a number of people who simply can't afford to pay for boxes and perhaps live in area where the over-the-air reception is poor or non existent. These viewers, who can least afford it, will in my opinion, be victimized if this happens. Because of that, I am opposed to requiring boxes to receive even the most basic service. As far as the reasons given by the cable companies for doing away with that service, they are complete nonsense(there are better words but maybe unprintable on this site). I know that because of my long experience with Cablevsion in Suffok County New York(My neighborhood was one of the first to receive their service when it began operations).
Kenneth J. Harris - 10/13/2012 10:34:03 AM EDT
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