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RCN Asks Again For Set-Top Waiver

Cable operator RCN has once again asked the FCC for a waiver of its planned ban on integrated cable set-top boxes.

Replying to arguments against the waiver by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), RCN says that not granting the waiver would result in a "large cable rate increase" in the name of choice for consumers without giving them any choice.

Instead, it argues, the FCC would force them to buy an "expensive basic box costing three times as much with no additional features or functions than today's low cost box."

The FCC instituted the ban to try to spur a retail market in cable digital set-tops, but the cable industry argues that it will hamper the roll-out of downloadable security by mandating a hardware solution that will soon be anachronistic.

The FCC concedes the software solution is better, but FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has said he thinks the industry needs the discipline of a deadline for a retail market to develop.

The FCC currently plans to proceed with a July 1 ban on cable digital set-top boxes that combine security and channel surfing functions. The FCC has declined to grant a blanket waiver of the deadline, which has been delayed a couple of times, but has said it would consider waivers on an ad hoc basis. It reportedly has more than a half-dozen such waivers before it.

RCN says that not granting the waiver for the low-cost integrated box would hurt cable's transition to digital services like parental controls--a big issue with FCC Chairman Kevin Martin.