As we discussed in our earlier DWT Advisory here, last year the FCC adopted additional obligations for cable operators related to their support for customer use of retail CableCARD devices. The effective date of some of these new rules had been deferred pending approval by the Office of Management and Budget. That approval has now occurred and additional rules described below became effective August 8, 2011. On that date, the FCC Enforcement Bureau issued an Enforcement Advisory advising cable operators that it will “strictly enforce” the new rules.
The newly effective rules include:
- Operators that currently permit self-installation of any equipment must proactively offer new CableCARD customers the option to self-install their CableCARDs in most devices; operators that do not permit equipment self-installs must allow self-installation of CableCARDS by November 1, 2011.
- Operators that offer any set-top boxes included in the base price of a bundle or promotion must offer a credit to customers that do not take the box because they instead use a retail CableCARD device.
- Operators must provide conspicuous notice to customers in the annual notice and in the operator’s website or billing inserts the rate they charge for CableCARDs in retail devices and those included in leased set-top boxes, and also the details of the “bring your own box” credit described above.
The Enforcement Advisory omits two details regarding the newly-effective rules. First, it fails to mention that the obligation to offer self-installation only applies to devices whose manufacturer provides specified levels of support for self-installation; however, operators may choose, for administrative convenience, not to have their customer service representatives quiz the customer on his or her type of device and instead issue CableCARDs, for a charge, to any customer that requests them. Second, the Advisory fails to mention that operators may use bill inserts as an alternative to posting information on their website. We do not believe these omissions were intentional and the published rules (available here) should control.