The CEA and a group of cable operators, serving 75 percent of all cable subscribers and led by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) have agreed to facilitate what the industry calls DTV set “plug and play.” This agreement is supposed to pave the way for “cable-ready” DTV sets. The commission is seeking comments until March 28 on proposed rules for “plug and play” cable compatibility, which it says is a key piece of the digital television puzzle.
The FCC is seeking comment on the potential impact upon consumers, small cable operators and multichannel video programming distributors other than cable operators, such as DBS. The commission is also seeking comment on the jurisdictional basis for FCC action in this area, including the creation of encoding rules for audiovisual content provided by cable and DBS providers as the understanding between the cable and consumers camps do not address the “down-resolution” of programming. Thus, the FCC through the Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking it issued January 7th concerning the “plug and play” issue is also seeking comment on whether FCC action is needed and authorized on the issue.
The agreement reached by the consumer and cable industries assert that unidirectional digital cable television receivers manufactured pursuant to the agreement would be capable of receiving analog basic, digital basic and digital premium cable television. An additional external navigation device will still be needed to receive advanced features such as cable operator-enhanced electronic programming guides, impulse pay-per-view or video on demand. The agreement does indicate that the industries continue to work on a bi-directional receiver specification, which is also of concern to the commission.
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