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ACA Praises FCC For Granting More Set-Top Box Waivers

The American Cable Association praised the Federal Communications Commission for granting a pair of set-top box waivers filed by equipment vendors, continuing a policy that will allow small cable operators to transition their facilities to digital platforms in a cost-efficient manner by not having to rely exclusively on more expensive CableCard-enabled boxes.

The trade group said it was pleased that the FCC recognizes the need to continue granting waivers of the existing rules at the same time it solicits comments on how the agency can encourage innovation in the video device market as part of its development of a National Broadband Plan.

''We are pleased that the FCC continues to recognize that by granting waivers for lower-cost set top boxes, small cable operators have more capital to deploy broadband facilities in rural areas that have traditionally been the most expensive to serve," ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said. "This action complements the FCC's notice of inquiry (NOI) regarding innovating in the market for video devices that seeks to move the country even closer to the goal of affordable and universal broadband access by adopting set-top box policies that reflect the realities of the current market."

The FCC granted waivers on Feb. 3 to two low-cost, limited-functionality boxes produced by Huawei Technologies (USA) and Evolution Broadband, LLC. The FCC said these two boxes qualified because they complied with agency precedent that waivers would be granted only if the boxes excluded various advanced features, such as return-path communications, HD output, hard-drive expansion for DVR service, cable modem support, or multiple tuners.

Set-top boxes that have already been granted relief from the FCC's integration ban will likely cost less than $50 each, compared to many CableCARD-enabled boxes that cost several hundred dollars each. By deploying Huawei and Evolution Broadband boxes, ACA members have an affordable means of connecting millions of their customers' legacy analog TV sets to cable networks with digital platforms.

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