FCC Sets Set-Top Check-Up Deadline


The top six cable operators and the leading cable industry and consumer electronics trade groups must begin filing status reports with the FCC on Oct. 1 detailing their progress toward a new deadline for eliminating cable set-top boxes that combine anti-theft security with channel surfing and interactive functions.

Thereafter, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and the Consumer Electronics Association must file status reports every 60 days on their progress toward making sure that retail equipment will be available to replace the integrated boxes. 
The two groups are negotiating technical standards for two-way "plug and play" TV sets that will permit interactivity with on-screen ads, games and other services.
Comcast, Time Warner, Cox, Charter, Adelphia and Cablevision must file status reports every 90 days on the availability of software that will allow subscribers to activate set-top boxes from retail outlets using a coded CableCard. The card, provided by the local operator, will grant access to programming.

The  new deadline  for status reports was required after the FCC in March delayed a ban on all-in-one security/navigation devices by one year, to July 2007.
The postponement was the second time the deadline had been delayed. The purpose of the latest delay was to give operators time to produce downloadable security software.

The FCC imposed the ban on dual-use boxes as a way to create a competitive retail market for set-tops rather than continue subscribers' reliance on cable-supplied boxes.
The obligation to create a competitive market was imposed on the FCC by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which required cable to make their systems interoperable with navigational devices supplied by third parties.