Progress Made in STB, Modem Energy Savings Campaign, Says Audit

Results of the three-year old "Voluntary Agreement for Ongoing Improvement to the Energy Efficiency of Small Network Equipment,” which includes cable set-top boxes and modems, have shown that consumers saved about $646 million in energy costs for STB usage and that about 90% of modems, routers and associated devices meet the "rigorous new efficiency standards," according to an audit review released on Tuesday. 

Independent auditor D+R International confirmed, among other findings, that 99.5 percent of new set-top boxes meet "Energy Star Efficiency Standards,"  that participating operators have purchased more than 27 million "thin clients,” which can deliver energy-saving DVR service, and that average maximum energy levels for current device models represented about an 18 percent reduction in energy usage from other recently deployed modems.

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In a joint announcement of the audit results, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association and the Consumer Technology Association (formerly the Consumer Electronics Association) explained that the D+R audit found that more than 3.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions were prevented in 2015 thanks to the STB efficiency. Overall, the STB improvements resulted in nearly $1.2 billion in energy cost savings, according to D+B.  

The "Voluntary Agreement for Ongoing Improvement to the Energy Efficiency of Small Network Equipment," which was updated last month, was recently named "Project of the Year" by Environmental Leader, an energy/environmental trade publication.

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"The pay TV industry and its suppliers are beginning to make a real dent in the high energy use of cable, satellite and telephone set-top boxes," according to a statement that NCTA/CTA issued from Noah Horowitz, director of the Center for Energy Efficiency Standards at the Natural Resources Defense Council. "New DVRs, the main set-top box in most homes, now use 36 percent less energy annually than in 2012."

The STB Voluntary Agreement was signed in 2012; a year later energy efficiency advocates joined with the pay television industry in an expanded version of the Voluntary Agreement. Signatories now include all of the major multichannel video service providers representing more than 92 percent of the U.S. multichannel video market: AT&T/DirecTV, Comcast, Charter/Time Warner Cable/Bright House Networks, Dusg, Verizon, Cox, Cablevision, and CenturyLink; major manufacturers: Arris/Pace, Technicolor, EchoStar Technologies; and energy-efficiency advocates: Natural Resources Defense Council, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy and the Appliance Standards Awareness Project.

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The modem agreement, modeled on the STB plan, features a commitment that starting this year, 90 percent of the small network equipment purchased by service providers and sold at retail by vendors meets new energy efficiency standards. Signatories to this agreement include service providers AT&T/DirecTV, Cablevision, CenturyLink, Charter/Time Warner Cable/ Bright House Networks, Comcast, Cox Communications, and Verizon; and manufacturers Actiontec, Arris, Cisco, D-Link, EchoStar Technologies, Netgear, Pace and Ubee Interactive.  

The D+B auditors found that the signatories were successful in early implementation of their modem/home network commitments, with seven of the 11 reporting signatories meeting the 90 percent commitment, and overall 89.6 percent of reported units purchased and sold in 2015 meeting the new energy efficiency standards. D+R also found that the average maximum energy level permitted by the new commitments represent approximately an 18 percent reduction in energy usage from other recently deployed models. The Voluntary Agreement is expected to continue to achieve additional savings as signatories fully implement their commitments in 2016, according to the NCTA/CTA announcement.

Gary Arlen

Contributor Gary Arlen is known for his insights into the convergence of media, telecom, content and technology. Gary was founder/editor/publisher of Interactivity Report, TeleServices Report and other influential newsletters; he was the longtime “curmudgeon” columnist for Multichannel News as well as a regular contributor to AdMap, Washington Technology and Telecommunications Reports. He writes regularly about trends and media/marketing for the Consumer Technology Association's i3 magazine plus several blogs. Gary has taught media-focused courses on the adjunct faculties at George Mason University and American University and has guest-lectured at MIT, Harvard, UCLA, University of Southern California and Northwestern University and at countless media, marketing and technology industry events. As President of Arlen Communications LLC, he has provided analyses about the development of applications and services for entertainment, marketing and e-commerce.