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CEA Ponders Challenge to Charter Waiver

Opponents of the FCC's conditional waiver to the charter for set-tops with downloadable security, which includes notably the Consumer Electronics Association, have until the end of this week to appeal that decision. A spokesperson for CEA said it was "considering all options," but FCC staffers are anticipating that it will appeal the bureau-level decision. It has 30 days from the FCC's grant of the waiver, which was adopted April 17.

Two commission sources confirmed CEA representatives have met with commission officials recently to argue that the waiver went too far, and that the fact that it does not require the boxes with downloadable security also to be CableCARD compliant -- the charter argued it would be too expensive and delay the move to digital security -- will encourage others to seek the waivers and effectively eviscerate the requirement of separating the security and surfing functions. That FCC move was meant to spur the market in the retail set-tops produced by CEA members.

Back in December, CEA asked the FCC to deny the charter's request for a waiver of the FCC's ban on integrated digital set-top boxes, calling its proposal a "nominal and partial 'solution' that cannot fairly be projected to work in the real world."

The FCC in 2007 instituted the prohibition on set-tops that combine channel surfing with security. Cable ops were required to use a removable CableCARD security add-on, a move the FCC hoped would promote a retail market in boxes, though it conceded a downloadable software security option would be preferable to the hardware in the long run.