FCC Relaxes Basic-Tier Cable Encryption Prohibition

Friday, October 12th, 2012
Federal Communications Commission logo

Commission Relaxes The Cable Encryption Prohibition

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has amended its rules to allow cable operators to encrypt the basic service tier in all-digital cable systems if they comply with certain consumer-protection measures. The rule change will benefit consumers who can have their cable service activated and deactivated from a remote location.

By allowing remote activation and deactivation, the FCC expects that its amended rules will result in benefits to both cable operators and consumers by significantly reducing the number of truck rolls associated with provisioning service and significantly reducing the need for subscribers to wait for service calls to activate or deactivate cable service.

At the same time, the FCC recognizes that this rule change will adversely affect a small number of cable subscribers who currently view the digital basic service tier without using a set-top box or other equipment. If a cable operator decides to encrypt the digital basic tier, then these subscribers will need equipment to continue viewing the channels on this tier. To give those consumers time to resolve the incompatibility between consumer electronics equipment (such as digital television sets) and newly encrypted cable service, the FCC requires operators of cable systems that choose to encrypt the basic service tier to comply with certain consumer protection measures for a period of time.

In addition, the FCC notes that this rule change may impact the ability of a small number of subscribers that use certain third-party equipment that is not CableCARD compatible to access channels on the basic service tier. To address this issue, the FCC requires the six largest incumbent cable operators to comply with additional requirements that are intended to ensure compatibility with certain third-party-provided equipment used to access the basic tier.