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ACA Statement On FCC’s Digital Basic Tier Encryption Order

In an Oct. 15 statement, American Cable Association President and CEO Matthew M. Polka responded to the Federal Communications Commission's decision to remove the ban on cable operator encryption of the digital basic service tier.

"The FCC's decision is a true win-win for consumers and cable operators, especially providers of cable service in high-cost rural areas.  ACA expects at least some of its members to take advantage of this ruling soon after it takes effect," Polka said.

The FCC's action, announced Oct. 12, was unanimous among the five commissioners.

"In our view, the FCC ruling will permit cable operators to encrypt the digital basic service tier and activate and deactivate customer service from remote locations, including headends. This means that providers will no longer need to send technicians to perform simple in-home tasks and that consumers will no longer need to remain at home to await service calls," Polka said.

The FCC limited encryption to all-digital systems because, the agency said, remote activation and deactivation of cable service, and its attendant benefits, are only feasible in all-digital systems.

"The ability to service consumers remotely will benefit cable operators serving rural areas -- many of whom are ACA Members -- where costs to send employees on service calls are higher than for operators in urban areas because of the greater geographic distance between consumer locations.

The FCC said another benefit of basic tier encryption was reduction in theft of cable service, noting that in 2004 about 5 percent of homes passed received unauthorized cable service, which equated to about $5  billion dollars in unrealized revenue for cable operators.

"The FCC ruling will mean that cable operators can expect to see a reduction in theft of service, which should benefit paying consumers who are effectively shouldering the costs imposed by signal thieves," Polka said.


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