Consumer Groups Pan CableCARD Bill

Say it will discourage device competition

Many consumer groups are not happy with the Consumer Choice in Video Devices Act, introduced by Rep. Robert Latta (R-Ohio) and Rep. Gene Green (R-Texas) last summer that would eliminate the FCC's ban on set-tops that integrate security and surfing functions.

In a letter to House Communications Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.), Public Knowledge, Free Press, Consumers Union, and others said the Act could "strip the FCC of its ability to protect consumers and promote competition in the video device market."

"FCC rules make it possible for competing electronics box manufacturers to create products that keep prices low and push forward innovation," said Christopher Lewis, VP, Public Knowledge. "If competing video device makers are eliminated, there is little to no incentive for large operators to keep their devices affordable or easy to use. We've seen what happens without device competition, and it's important that the [FCC] retains its authority."

The CableCARD was the FCC's hardware solution to trying to create a more robust retail market for digital set-top devices by separating the surfing and security functions, the latter supplied by a hardware CableCARD add-on—cable ops had pushed for holding off until there was a software solution. Both the FCC and industry agree that a robust market has not materialized.