Cable Wants to Keep Dual Boxes


With a Federal Communications Commission decision expected early next year, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association continues to press its case for eliminating a rule that will require cable operators to stop providing set-top boxes that combine both security and channel-surfing functions.

Current FCC rules require operators to stop providing dual-function boxes in July 2006.

The rules were imposed to encourage a competitive retail market for set-top navigation boxes that could contain a variety of new interactive features.

Despite consumer electronics makers’ desire to keep the current rule, NCTA General Counsel Neal Goldberg told the FCC Monday that the ban isn’t needed to foster a market for retail boxes and will harm consumers through higher prices.

Since introduction in the last few months, the number of boxes manufactured for retail has grown to over 140 devices from 11 manufacturers. The number of boxes deployed has grown from zero to approximately 10,000 “with the number rapidly escalating every week,” he said.

Goldberg also challenged the consumer electronics makers’ assertion that cable has an interest in weakening the retail market.

The FCC previously pledged to rule on NCTA’s request by Jan. 1. But agency staffers say the decision actually will be made a week or two after that date.