CableCards Crack 4 Million

The 10 largest cable companies have deployed 4.18 million CableCard-enabled set-top boxes in the last nine months, in compliance with a Federal Communications Commission rule intended to improve the functioning of third-party consumer electronics on cable networks.

By contrast, through March 19, those operators supplied customers with about 347,000 standalone CableCards, for use in TiVo digital video recorders and other cable-ready devices — less than 10% of the number cable companies supplied with their own leased equipment.

The figures, which the National Cable & Telecommunications Association reported to the FCC last week, indicate that the industry has put more than 1.9 million CableCard-based set-tops into service since the industry’s last report, on Dec. 26.

In the report to the FCC, NCTA general counsel Neal Goldberg wrote that “in less than nine months, cable operators have deployed more than 12 times as many CableCard-enabled devices than the total number of CableCards requested by customers for use in [unidirectional cable products] in the last four years.”

The top 10 operators serve 90% of cable subscribers in the U.S., according to the NCTA.

The FCC’s ban on digital cable set-tops with integrated security features went into effect for most cable operators July 1.

Set-tops with removable CableCards don’t provide any features different from those with integrated security. The purpose of the FCC rule is to ensure “common reliance”: that operator-supplied set-tops use the same standard the industry provides to TiVos and other third-party cable-ready products.

Some cable companies, including Charter Communications and Cablevision Systems, have received temporary waivers to the CableCard regulation for various reasons.