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NCTA Answers CableCARD Stance Critics - Broadcasting & Cable

NCTA Answers CableCARD Stance Critics

Says it will support retail boxes, but pushes for end to leased CableCARD set-tops
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The National Cable &
Telecommunications Association says it is not out to sabotage its
customers who use retail set-tops (about half a million).

NCTA was responding
to comments filed by Public Knowledge, the Consumer Electronics Association and
others in the FCC's set-top proceeding about CableCARDS, the hardware fix that
separates the channel surfing and security functions in set-tops per the FCC's
ban on integrated set-tops.

The FCC was trying to
drive a retail market in those boxes, but has conceded the move has not worked.

NCTA said some of
those commenters had used that false pretense to try to impose new rules
and obligations on the industry.

The cable group said
that it continues to support the 1% of its customers who use the retail boxes
but that there was no reason to adopt CEA's suggestion that the cable
operator provide more technical support for those retail boxes.

"If a leased device
is not working, operators can support it, fix it, or replace it free of
charge," said NCTA in its comments. "If a retail device is not
working, cable operators will ensure that the CableCARD is working, but
the retail equipment is otherwise the responsibility of the customer and the
device manufacturer."

Public Knowledge argued
that bundled service deals including leased boxes undercut the retail market,
but NCTA said that discount bundles "have benefited consumers with
considerable savings, and disassembling package discounts would undermine the
very transactional economies that help keep discounts deep."

NCTA renewed its
request that the ban on integrated set-tops be lifted for newly leased boxes.

"The time has come
to relieve cable operators of the burden to deploy CableCARDs in all of
their new leased boxes," it said. Cable operators have deployed 21 million
of the CableCARD-enabled leased boxes compared to only 520,000 retail boxes.

"Requiring cable
operators to install millions more CableCARDs in additional leased
devices...will not revive the flagging consumer and manufacturer interest in
one-way devices that cannot access video-on-demand and other two-way
services."

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