Reps. Green and Latta Introduce Legislation to Roll Back Outdated Integration Ban
WASHINGTON, DC – On September 26, Congressman Gene Green (D-TX) and Congressman Bob Latta (R-OH) introduced H.R. 3196, bipartisan legislation to remove the unnecessary and costly integration ban while maintaining the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) ability to regulate set-top boxes in the future.
“I appreciate Rep Latta's leadership on this issue and am proud to introduce this legislation with him,” said Congressman Green. “The bill will unleash new innovative solutions by ridding the rule books of an antiquated tech mandate. At the same time, the bill is a surgical approach that preserves FCC authority in the retail set top box market.”
“By one estimate, the prohibition has cost cable operators and consumers more than $1 billion since it went into effect in 2007. In today’s ultra competitive video marketplace, cable operators have no incentive to make it more difficult for their customers to use their preferred devices to access their video programming services,” Congressman Latta said.
In 2007, the FCC required cable operators to separate the security functions formerly integrated into set top boxes from the tuning and navigation (i.e., channel changing). In response, cable operators developed a security module called a CableCARD that contained the security information necessary for a subscriber to receive service on a box purchased at retail. The idea was that separating out the security function would foster a retail market by enabling a consumer to buy a box that could be used with any cable system anywhere in the country once the consumer obtained a CableCARD from the local operator.
The FCC also determined that that a retail market would not develop effectively if cable operators could continue to lease their boxes with integrated security. To ensure that cable operators would not undermine the separate security regime by, for example, designing new services that would only work with boxes that had integrated security, the FCC adopted the “integration ban” that required operators to use CableCARDs in the boxes they lease to consumers. The integration ban is not mandated by statute nor was this the congressional intent, and since its adoption, it has not generated demand for retail devices.