CEA is asking the FCC not to grant Comcast’s request to exempt some low-cost digital set-tops from a July 1, 2007 deadline that requires all new boxes to have a CableCARD or a removable conditional access system. The stance fits with CEA’s pattern—it’s long complained that cable isn’t as supportive as it could be of CableCARDs, and it was unhappy when the FCC voted last year to postpone the set-top integration ban to July ’07 from July ’06. "Comcast’s waiver application asks for a permanent exemption for many or most of its new devices, while the industry already plans to move to an entirely different security method [downloadable security]," CEA told the FCC Thurs. "The Commission is therefore asked to be, again, complicit in commercially isolating CableCARD-reliant devices, at a time when such isolation could be fatal to their prospects." Such a waiver might be interpreted to mean that minimal or no CableCARD reliance in at least some systems is OK, CEA said. Comcast asked the FCC in April to exempt low-end boxes that don’t feature DVRs or other bells and whistles, such as Motorola’s "DCT-700," S-A’s "Explorer 940" and Pace’s "Chicago" (Cfax, 4/28). Those are all sub-$100 boxes that would cost an extra $50 if they are not excused from the deadline, according to Comcast. The MSO says the exemption would provide a low-cost way for analog consumers to continue receiving cable signals after the Feb ’09 DTV transition. If the exemption is granted, it would apply to all cable operators. NCTA supports the move, and is telling the FCC it needs to act within a statutorily mandated 90-day timeframe (nearly 2 months have already passed). Thomson, Pace and other set-top makers have weighed in with their support.

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