Thursday, May 31, 2012

FCC Should End the Basic Tier Encryption Ban

I mentioned the FCC's outdated and problematic rate regulations for "basic tier" services on cable systems in an April blog post. The FCC's ban on encryption of basic tier cable services is another regulatory burden that the agency should eliminate. 
The ban on basic tier encryption was adopted for the long-gone analog era of cable services. Encryption is a common practice in the video programming market, with programmers typically requiring encryption by cable providers as a condition of carriage. By eliminating the basic tier encryption ban cable providers would be able to activate and deactivate consumer cable services remotely, thereby avoiding the need for service calls and reducing installation costs to consumers.
Fortunately, the FCC has recognized that the basic tier encryption ban can drive up costs to cable operators and consumers through waivers. Even better, the FCC has proposed to lift the basic tier encryption ban entirely in a Notice published in October 2011. A March letter from more than a dozen cable provider CEOs reiterates many of the Notice's reasons for its proposal to end the ban on basic tier encryption. The FCC should follow through on its proposal.