NCTA questions contradictory DTV-related policies

While the federal government is preparing to give over-the-air TV viewers a $40 voucher for a converter box, it’s also preparing to implement rules that will result in high cable fees with no added benefit.
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The left hand giveth and the right hand taketh away. That’s the message Kyle McSlarrow, president and CEO of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA), delivered in an Oct. 31 letter to the U.S. Department of Commerce and the FCC.

On the one hand, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is working on its voucher program to subsidize the purchase of digital-to-analog converter boxes so over-the-air TVs will work after the February 2009 shutoff. On the other hand, the FCC is ready to implement a rule that will require all digital cable boxes deployed after July 1, 2007, to use an insertable CableCARD for security, which will add $2 to $3 to monthly bills.

In the letter, McSlarrow described the situation as “a serious disconnect in government policies that threatens the digital transition.”

The FCC rule, known as the Integration Ban, mandates the addition of CableCARDs to existing boxes to perform “the same ‘security’ and ‘descrambling’ functions that the current ‘integrated’ boxes already perform,” the letter said.

The association has filed a request with the FCC asking that it defer implementation of the Integration Ban until Dec. 31, 2009, if software-based downloadable security is not deployed by then.