Op-eds and Articles

Outdated cable box rule harms the data-driven economy

By / 11.19.2014

Innovating in the digital age requires flexible rules that keep pace with the latest technology. This is especially true in the video services market, where change has been fast and furious. That’s why Congress should act to repeal an expensive and innovation-restricting requirement on the design of set-top cable boxes — without limiting the choice of retail devices that consumers enjoy today.

Currently, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) mandates that each cable box — the electronic device in your home that links your TV with your cable provider — use a particular type of technology known as a “CableCARD.” This is a credit card-sized security device that enables the box to access the channels and other services to which you subscribe. The FCC’s rule, formally known as the “integration ban,” requires that these security functions cannot be hard-wired or otherwise integrated within boxes leased to consumers by their cable company.

The CableCARD requirement is a good example of how not to regulate in the dynamic data-driven economy, a topic on which the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) has written extensively. In this case, the intention behind requiring CableCARDs was to foster a retail marketplace for set-top boxes, similar to telephones. Customers who decided to buy cable boxes instead of leasing them could use the box across different cable providers by obtaining a CableCARD from their provider to access its services. To ensure that cable operators would support CableCARDs, the FCC also required operators to include the cards in their leased set-top boxes.

Continue reading at The Hill.