Comcast sues FCC over set-top box waiver

Comcast has sued the FCC over its refusal to give the cable operator a waiver on a new rule concerning set-top boxes.

At issue is a new rule that requires set-top box functions to be separate from conditional access security technology. The commission wants the separation of functions in order to stimulate a competitive open market for set-top appliances. Currently, the cable operator rents most boxes to customers.

The commission refused to grant Comcast a waiver on the rule, which went into effect in July. Comcast requested the waiver so it could continue to supply low-cost integrated boxes in addition to more expensive models that use CableCARD technology to separate security.

Ultimately, the cable industry wants to buy time to develop technology for downloadable security via software rather than the cards.

Comcast, who requested an expedited hearing on the case, said it suffered “irreparable harm” because some of its competitors got waivers and can offer cheaper set-top boxes. The FCC said it grants such waivers only on a case-by-case basis.