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NCTA, CEA Say DOE Should Pause Set-Top Reg Effort

If the Department of Energy insists on regulating set-top
box energy efficiency standards, it would foreclose innovation and
"sabotage" a voluntary agreement among equipment manufacturers and
the top MVPDS.

That was a message to the Washington press corp. in a joint
Consumer Electronics Association/National Cable and Telecommunications
Association press conference in Washington Monday.

The two pointed out that while they continue to fight each
other over set-tops at the FCC (the CableCARD vs. downloadable security issue
notably), they were speaking with one voice on the issue of DOE, and that was a
request that it put its regulatory proceeding on pause once again to see how
the industry pledge to adhere to Energy Star ratings played out.

"If you were invited to a press conference with NCTA
and CEA about set-top boxes," said Neil Goldberg, you might expect "a
celebrity cage match." He pointed out that they were "at each other's
throats at the FCC on a number of set-top box issues. But here we are joined at
the hip."

Last fall, Comcast, DirecTV, Dish Network, Time Warner
Cable, Cox, Verizon, Charter, AT&T, Cablevision, Bright House Networks and
CenturyLink, as well as consumer equipment companies Cisco, Motorola, EchoStar
and ARRIS, agreed that new set-tops will meet EPA Energy Star 3.0 levels, which
the EPA says make those boxes 45% more efficient than boxes that don't meet
that standard. In addition, "light sleeper" mode software will be
employed by cable ops to more than 10 million DVRs already in use, and
satellite operators will include a power-down feature in 90% of the set-tops
they deploy.

But energy conservation advocates did not sign on to the
agreement and DOE, which had paused its proceeding during negotiations,
restarted the process and it working on testing procedures for boxes.

At the press conference, representatives of CEA and NCTA
pointed out that the industry was already working on a testing procedure that
was close to being certified, and asked DOE to again hit the pause button
rather than impose its own testing procedure, which could threaten their own
voluntary effort.

That effort, they said, could achieve energy efficiency
faster and more effectively than a DOE mandate. They have committed that by
2014, "at least 90% of new set-top boxes purchased and deployed by the
participating companies will meet the Environment Protection Agency's ENERGY
STAR 3.0 (ESv3) efficiency levels, enabling significant energy savings that
will occur years before any regulatory approaches could take effect." DOE
has set 2018 as the deadline for implementing its standards.

In addition, they said they believe that, by law, DOE needs
to rely on the testing procedure developed by CEA and incorporatedinto the voluntary agreement. That standard, adopted in an open process, is
expected to be approved by the American National Standards Institute in a few
weeks, they said.

NCTA and CEA say that they continue to talk with the energy
advocacy groups who did not sign on to the voluntary standard, but that in the
meantime, DOE should not impose regulations, particularly on a networked
set-top device that needs the flexibility to accommodate software and firmware
add-ons in real time.

They pointed out that it was in the competitive interests of
all their members to have boxes that ran cool to avoid the problems that could
send their customers searching for alternatives.

They also said that the voluntary agreement
signatories were in the best position to come up with energy efficiency
standards that allowed the devices to be both consumer- and network-friendly.