WASHINGTON (CN) – The Federal Communications Commission has ordered cable companies to allow subscribers to use third party navigation devices to access their cable services at the same price as devices offered by the cable companies.
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 required the FCC to develop rules to break up the monopoly cable companies had on the type of receiver – the once ubiquitous box that sat on top of the television – subscribers used to access the cable system.
The key to such devices is a component called a CableCARD. Previous FCC rules ordered cable companies to make receivers cable of using third party cards and of using CableCARDs in third party devices, allowing access to cable television channels on televisions, personal computers, digital video recorders, and wireless devices without leasing a device from their cable company.
The FCC’s new order mandates that when cable companies sell their own CableCARDs the cards must be capable of accessing multiple channels simultaneously and receiving switched digital video transmissions, a method of sending only cable channels that are actually being accessed to conserve bandwidth for other uses such as surfing the Internet while watching television.
Under the new order, manufacturers of the receivers that accept CableCARDs will have to make it easy for consumers to install and remove the cards themselves.
The new regulations on CableCARDs may soon be obsolete, however, as many cable operators and consumer electronics manufacturers are pushing for a software CableCARD standard that consumers would download from the Internet to unlock cable programs on different electronic devices.