In October, the Federal Communications Commission issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to seek comment on whether to retain the basic service tier encryption prohibition for all-digital cable systems. In its NPRM, the FCC tentatively concluded that allowing cable operators to encrypt the basic service tier in all-digital systems would not substantially affect compatibility between cable service and consumer electronics equipment for most subscribers.

In response to the NPRM, the American Cable Association (ACA) filed comments that endorsed the FCC’s proposal to permit basic tier encryption by all-digital cable systems on a voluntary basis.

“ACA fully supports removing the prohibition on basic service tier encryption for digital cable systems. Available evidence suggests that permitting all-digital systems to encrypt the basic tier will significantly reduce the cost of turning customers’ services on and off and will also help reduce cable signal theft,” said ACA President and CEO Matthew Polka in a statement.

All-digital cable systems subject to the encryption ban are effectively required to physically connect and disconnect a residence from the cable network in order to turn service on and off. In cases where operators do not physically disconnect cable service from a residence, the residents can take measures to receive the cable operator’s basic service without paying, particularly those who subscribe to the operator’s high speed Internet access service. By contrast, operators permitted to encrypt the basic tier (higher digital tiers are already encrypted) can rely on remote service management capabilities to activate and de-activate service, obviating the need to send technicians in a truck to visit customers or the need for customers to be home at a particular time.

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