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Cable Technology Feature Article

October 15, 2010

FCC: Advocate for Cable Viewing Equality

By Jaclyn Allard, TMCnet Copy Editor

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC (News - Alert)), acknowledging user viewing equality as a topic of debate, recently issued new CableCard rules. Today, approximately 500,000 U.S. households use CableCards, but traditionally set-top boxes, a device connecting a television and an external source of signal to display content on a TV screen or other display device, were offered by cable companies across the board. These set-top boxes were generally installed with a technical protection cable, eliminating the chance of piracy, and CableCards were rarely or never offered as an alternative viewing source.

Recent FCC involvement has dissolved these issues, expecting set-top boxes to now have the ability to access all cable channels. Cable customers also may continue renting set-top boxes, but must be offered the option of a cheaper plug-in CableCard device, allowing non-cable-ready TVs to receive cable signals. Cable companies must be transparent in their offerings, and this includes transparent pricing.

The FCC is extending its reach beyond the CableCard controversy. It recently proposed a new set of rules for mobile phone carriers, in which mobile phone carriers are now required to alert customers when they are about to reach their monthly usage limits. After hundreds of complaints regarding outlandish cell phone charges, the FCC began pushing the legislation. Monthly bills were over $1,000 in 20 percent of these grievances; the largest monthly statement reaching $68,505.

The FCC, although coming down hard on cable companies and mobile phone carriers, continues to look out for consumers and their wallets.

Jaclyn Allard is a TMCnet copy editor. She most recently worked on the production team at Juran Institute, a quality consulting firm producing its own training and marketing materials. Previously, she interned at Curbstone Press, a nonprofit publishing press in Willimantic, CT, and fulfilled the role of Editor-in-Chief for the literature and arts journal published by the University of Connecticut. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Jaclyn Allard