09.16.2003 12:00 PM
Commission adopts digital plug-and-play rules to ease consumer DTV adoption

The FCC last week adopted rules to ease cable viewers into the digital future and assure television broadcasters that new digital sets will be equipped with digital tuners so that over-the-air TV viewers will be able to receive their digital broadcasts.

The rules establish digital plug-and-play compatibility for consumer electronics manufacturers and cable service providers. Based on a memorandum of understanding between both industries filed with the commission in December 2002, the rules spell out technical standards, labeling and encoding requirements that among other things eliminate the need for a set-top cable decoder box.

Of particular interest to broadcasters is a provision requiring manufacturers of DTV televisions labeled as “Digital Cable Ready” to include an over-the-air DTV tuner in the set.

The new rules provide plug-and-play functionality for one-way digital cable service for standard and premium cable channels. Consumers wishing to take advantage of this functionality must obtain a security card, often referred to as a POD card, from their cable provider that gets inserted into the set. The new rules do not provide for two-way digital plug-and-play functionality. The commission encouraged the consumer electronics and cable industries to consult with other interested parties as they seek mutually acceptable two-way digital cable solutions.

The rules are a first step in addressing impediments to consumer adoption of digital television. The commission also issued a Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to address several issues including proposed digital output and content protection technologies. Additionally, Commissioner Michael Powell promised a draft decision on the broadcast flag proceeding in the near future.

For more information, please visit: www.fcc.gov.

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