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FCC Tees Up CableCARD Fixes

The FCC has tentatively slated changes to the CableCARD regime for its Oct. 14 meeting.

As part of its push for a universal gateway device to
unite online and traditional video, the FCC also proposed varoius
changes to the CableCARD regime, underwhich broadcasters were required
to implement a hardware solution to separating the
surfing and security functions in cable digital set-tops.

The FCC mandated the separation to goose a retail market in set-tops, but has since conceded it did not work.

While the FCC's proposal is to replace the current
set-top regime with a universal device cabable of integrating
traditional and online video, in the meantime it said it wanted to make
some tweaks to the CableCARD system to improve it.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association
has argued that those short-term fixes should include ending the ban on
integrated set-tops altogether and sopt requiring any more cards to be

"[T]the integration ban has imposed more than a billion
dollars in costs on cable operators and consumers, yet there is no
compelling evidence of any correlation between CableCARD use in leased
devices and the adoption of retail CableCARD devices
or other consumer benefits," NCTA said in comments to the FCC back in June.

"But even if there were such evidence, there is certainly no evidence
that consumers would receive a commensurate incremental benefit from
continued imposition of the ntegration ban on devices over and above the
20 million CableCARD devices cable operators
have already deployed."

NCTA said it was not suggesting "abandoning" support for
those existing 20 million boxes. It argues that since the FCC has never
said it was necessary for all leased devices to include the cards, and
the 10 largest operators have deployed those
20 million, it is better to stop now "rather than unnecessarily forcing
consumers to bear millions more in costs in the name of supporting a
regime that in any event the Commission wants to replace."

Also on the agenda, released Thursday, is seeking comment
on a proposal to require mobile carrier to supply usage alerts to
customers to avoid "bill shock," and wether or not to set aside funds in
the Universal Service Fund to support private
investment in 3G wireless mobile services where it is currently not

The mobility fund is part of the overall Universal
Service Fund reform the FCC outlined as part of the National Broadband
Plan. The FCC adopted Universal Service Reform, changes to the fund
supporting schools and libraries, at its meeting Thursday
(Sept. 23), and FCC Chairman Genachowksi suggested it would me moving
as expeditiously as possible on more USF reform.