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NCTA: Almost 14 Million CableCards Deployed Since July 2007

In its latest report to the FCC, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association says nearly 14 million CableCARDS have been deployed--either as add-ons or in set-tops--in the past 21 months.

That is the period since July 1, 2007, when the FCC, over the industry's objections, started requiring operators to separate out the security and channel surfing functions in the operator-supplied cable boxes, saying it was trying to promote a retail market for the boxes.

The FCC requires operators to file status reports on that effort and NCTA has been compiling numbers from the top operators and filing it in a single update.

According to NCTA, as of March 23, just over 420,000 CableCards have been deployed for retail devices by the 10 largest operators (serving about 90% of the subs in the country), in addition to more than 12,350,000 deployed in operator-supplied boxes, more than twice the number of such boxes as of NCTA's June 2008 reporting to the FCC.

While smaller operators have received waivers from the integration-ban rule, major operators like Comcast were unsuccessful in securing waivers and have thus plowed ahead with deploying set-tops with CableCARDs. They have also continued to supply CableCARDs to those subscribers who request them, although that demand has been slight.

The cable industry argued that the ban on integrated surfing and security forced them to deal with the old technology of CableCARD security hardware while it is in the midst of developing a downloadable security system that is cheaper, easier, and more elegant. The result, they said, was unnecessary costs to the digital set-tops they lease to subscribers without providing any tangible benefit to consumers.

The FCC has concluded that while it recognized the advantages of downloadable security and encourages it, it can't be sure the industry will deliver on the promises of that technology in a timely fashion.