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ACA Salutes FCC For Issuing HD Set-Top Box Waiver To Small Cable System

Ruling Could Open Door for Other Small Cable Systems to Seek Relief

PITTSBURGH, May, 28 2009 — The American Cable Association applauded the Federal Communications Commission for granting Cable One, Inc., permission to deploy in a rural Tennessee system a low-cost set-top box that will provide consumers with much more affordable access to dozens of cable networks transmitted in the high-definition (HD) format.


"We are pleased the FCC decided to grant Cable ONE the HD set-top box waiver, which ACA supported last fall in comments filed at the FCC. We hope the ruling means that the FCC is prepared to grant similar waivers filed by ACA members that want relief from costly set-top box design mandates," American Cable Association president and CEO Matthew M. Polka said.


From ACA’s perspective, the Cable ONE ruling was encouraging because it showed that the FCC understands how its set-top box regulations can interfere with small cable operators that are trying to deliver the most advanced voice, video and broadband services to rural America.


“The FCC reached the proper conclusion that a waiver was the best outcome for Cable ONE and its customers. Burdening small and medium-sized cable operators with unnecessary regulatory costs means they will have less capital to invest in their networks and rural America will fail to enjoy technological parity with densely populated cities and suburbs," Polka added.


Cable set-top boxes contain the coding to view cable networks that have been digitally encrypted to guard against signal theft.  Cable subscribers that desire two-way and advanced features, such as HD programming, interactive program guides, and video-on-demand services, generally need a set-top box.


Last fall, Cable ONE applied for a waiver from the FCC's set-top box integration ban contained in regulations that took effect on July 1, 2007. The ban required cable operators to rely exclusively on set-top boxes in which signal security functions were contained in a small card that inserts into a slot built into the unit.  These advanced CableCARD boxes mandated by the FCC are far more expensive than traditional integrated boxes sidelined under FCC rules.


Under its new FCC waiver, Cable ONE is now allowed to deploy a limited one-way, HD-capable box that has a $50 per-unit wholesale cost. The cable company’s alternative was to rely on CableCARD HD set-top units that would cost between $300 and $400 each at wholesale and run Cable ONE customers about $8 to $10 a month to lease.


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About the American Cable Association

Based in Pittsburgh, the American Cable Association is a trade organization representing more than 900 smaller and medium-sized, independent cable companies who provide broadband services for more than 7 million cable subscribers primarily located in rural and smaller suburban markets across America.  Through active participation in the regulatory and legislative process in Washington, D.C., ACA's members work together to advance the interests of their customers and ensure the future competitiveness and viability of their business.  For more information, visit http://www.americancable.org/

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