Christmas is coming early for cable operators that are eager to encrypt the basic TV service tiers in all-digital systems.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has set Dec. 10, 2012 as the effective date for new rules that effectively lift a ban that has prevented MSOs from locking up their basic TV services. The Commission voted in favor of the new rules on Oct. 12, but they could not take effect until 30 days after publication of the order in the Federal Register, which took place on Nov. 9. (See Cable Cleared to Encrypt Basic TV Tiers .)
Cable operators fought hard for the rules, claiming they will reduce basic TV service theft and cut down on truck rolls because MSOs will gain the ability to activate and deactivate customers remotely and reduce expensive truck rolls.
But there are some caveats. Operators taking advantage of the new rules must provide affected customers with a set-top box or a CableCARD for free over a specific time period.
The top six U.S. incumbent MSOs also agreed to provide the technology necessary to let IP-based retail devices, such as the Boxee box, decrypt and display channels in their basic TV lineups. Devices such as Boxee's have historically obtained those signals in unencrypted form -- something called "clear QAM." (See Boxee, Cable Spar Over Video Encryption and Boxee CEO Now a Friend of Big Cable?)
Early on, it's expected that most of the operators subject to the retail device condition (Comcast Corp., Time Warner Cable Inc., Cox Communications Inc., Charter Communications Inc., Cablevision Systems Corp., and Bright House Networks) will support it by supplying customers with a new type of Digital Terminal Adapter (DTA) with home-networking capability that can decrypt the basic TV signals and shuttle them along to the retail device. The rules also establish the groundwork for retail suppliers to license and embed the decryption technology.
Why this matters
The date gives cable the official go-ahead to lock up their basic TV tiers in all-digital systems, and will accelerate development activity on a new type of DTA that can work in tandem with a wide range of IP-based video devices sold at retail.
â€” Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable