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Cable Ops Express Concerns Over Set-Top Energy Efficiency Standard

Larger cable operators told the Department of Energy Tuesday
that it should stop ignoring the "landmark" Consumer Electronics
Association/MVPD set-top box energy efficiency agreement and not try to
supplant market forces with its own standard, while smaller ops said that if
DOE does come up with its own standard, it should take smaller ops' particular
challenges into account.

In comments to DOE, the National Cable and
Telecommunications Association said that the department should first give that
agreement, strucklast December, a chance to work since DOE's rules prohibit new energy
conservation standards unless they would result in better results than produced
by market forces and nonregulatory approaches, which would include voluntary
industry agreements.

"Just the first phase of its commitments when fully
realized will result in annual residential electricity savings of at least $1.5
billion, reducing carbon emissions by the equivalent of four power plants
annually, years before any DOE rules could take effect," NCTA said.

NCTA essentially conceded that there is not much of a retail
market for the boxes, which it used in this case to help make its case against
the standard.

NCTA argued that while DOE usually comes up with its own
test procedures to provide guidance to consumers, "set-top boxes are not
consumer products covered by the Energy Policy and Conservation Act"
because "nearly all set-top boxes are purchased by a multichannel video
programming distributor ('MVPD'), not by consumers."

In separate comments, the American Cable Association says it
is all for energy efficiency, but that DOE's proposal that cable operators
would have to test their boxes would be an undue burden on the smaller
operators it represents.

"The success of DOE's mission to spur the development
and deployment of more energy-efficient set-top boxes depends on its ability to
leverage industry's expertise and capabilities," said ACA. "Requiring
small cable operators to set up elaborate testing facilities and hire expert
engineers to test the energy use of scores of small-scale software
configurations would not meaningfully contribute to this success. It would,
however, impose significant costs on the segment of the industry that can least
afford them."

ACA suggested that if DOE does go ahead with its own
standard, it require the hardware manufacturer to do the testing and not define
manufacturer as any party that loads software onto a set-top.

"Most small cable operators do not have the
technical, financial, or operational resources to perform energy-usage testing
on set-top boxes, let alone to do so each and every time they make a new
variation in software," said ACA.