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Ops Challenge FCC’s Set-Top Rules In Court

Washington— Charter Communications Inc. and Advance/Newhouse Communications went to federal court last Tuesday to overturn set-top box rules adopted in March by the Federal Communications Commission.

The cable companies filed the case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, alleging that the FCC exceeded its authority and abused its discretion.

In the March order, the commission required cable operators to discontinue the sale or lease of integrated set-top boxes effective July 2007. Integrated boxes combine security and channel-surfing functions. To promote set-top-box competition, the FCC wants cable’s security features to function on a plug-and-play basis with third-party boxes.

Charter spokesman David Andersen said the companies are not trying to overturn the FCC’s decision to move the deadline from July 2006 to July 2007. Instead, they are challenging the FCC’s decision to retain the ban while excluding direct broadcast satellite carriers from the process.

Cable went to court once before to overturn the ban. In a case brought by General Instrument Corp., the industry argued that the FCC lacked legal authority to adopt a ban. In June 2000, the D.C. Circuit handed the FCC an across-the-board victory.