Public Interest Groups Ask FCC To ‘Fix’ CableCARD Program
Public Interest Groups Ask FCC To ‘Fix’ CableCARD Program
Public Interest Groups Ask FCC To ‘Fix’ CableCARD Program

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    The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should make certain that consumers have more choice in devices to see video programming by going ahead with rules that Congress mandated in 1996, three public interest groups told the Commission.

    The text of the filing is here.

    At issue are rules surrounding CableCARD, a separate data module that the FCC had wanted to be available for video recorders, TV sets, computers or other devices to allow consumers to have access to a wide range of cable content.  Public Knowledge, Media Access Project and New America Foundation told the FCC that it’s time to put aside persistent industry opposition to implementing the CableCARD program and make some fundamental changes:  “Surgery is needed, not just a bandage.”

    In the years since the FCC first proposed the rules, major electronics companies have gone on to other projects, rather than make devices to connect to cable systems.  “The technologists who would have founded the next TiVo saw the barriers to using CableCARD and moved on.”  Apple said its cable technology barriers were the reason Apple TV did not support TV tuning and recording, the filing noted.  Other companies, like Roku, Boxee and Vuze, bypass cable-supplied video:  “Attempting to interoperate with the most popular source of programming is just not worth the legal, financial, and customer service hassle for even the brightest of engineers.”

    The groups said that as a result of cable industry opposition, consumers continue to spend money for leased, low-quality equipment from their cable companies rather than have a choice of better equipment:  “The lesson of CableCARD is that the Commission should not delegate to an industry the obligation to create a level playing field that said industry perceives as fundamentally opposed to its own economic interests.”

    The Commission should move aggressively not only to make changes to allow the CableCARD devices that are on the market to be used, but to make certain that the FCC’s future plans for giving consumers more access to cable content go forward as well.