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ACA Commends FCC For Reforming Set-Top Box Rules

The American Cable Association applauded the Federal Communications Commission for modifying its CableCARD rules on Oct. 14 in favor of a new approach sought by the independent cable community for many years that will greatly accelerate the availability of HD programming and faster Internet download speeds across rural America.

"ACA commends the FCC for recognizing that the burden on independent cable operators to procure expensive HD set-top boxes under the CableCARD regime not only slowed their analog-to-digital TV transition but also tied up valuable bandwidth that could not be allocated to broadband or other advanced services. Today's laudable FCC action puts the country on the right path and deserves broad support from industry and consumers," American Cable Association President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said.

The new rules, unanimously adopted the rules at the FCC's monthly public meeting in Washington, D.C., will allow cable operators to deploy low-cost HD set-top boxes that have limited features and functionalities - namely, streamlined boxes that are expected to cost no more than $50 at wholesale, or several hundreds dollars less than CableCARD-enabled boxes that put a financial burden on many ACA members.

The ability to use low-cost HD boxes will provide small cable operators with an affordable avenue to continue the transition of their analog channels to digital. The faster cable operators can transition, the sooner they'll have the network capacity to offer more HD channels in addition to a suite of IP-enabled voice, video and data services and products, especially faster Internet throughput speeds.

Over the years, ACA has stressed that the availability of low-cost, integrated, HD-capable set-top boxes would have practical benefits -- for example, consumers could select a basic HD set-top for an HD set in a bedroom instead of an expensive advanced box with two-way functionality and video-on-demand features. 

Expressing the view of many stakeholders, ACA maintained that new set-top policies would not have a substantial impact on the FCC's mandate to promote a competitive retail market for CableCARD navigation devices and would not substantially affect cable operators' reliance on the CableCARD standard.


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