WASHINGTON, DC -- The National Cable & Telecommunications Association launched an industry-wide initiative to promote the availability of digital cable converters at consumer electronics stores, providing customers with the option of purchasing rather than leasing set-top boxes, it announced today.

"Providing cable customers with greater choice enhances our competitive position," said NCTA President & CEO Robert Sachs. "This action will build upon the important business partnership with consumer electronic retailers that is yielding dividends in cable modem sales," commented Michael Willner, President & CEO of Insight Communications and Chairman of the NCTA Board of Directors.

"We strongly support this industry initiative to expand availability and deployment of interactive digital services to consumers," said Jim McDonald, Chairman, CEO, and President of Scientific-Atlanta. "With our wide range of Explorer set-tops in the retail environment, cable operators will be able to market aggressively digital cable and its superior interactive television experience through in-store demonstrations of compelling new services."

"With this action, the consumer wins, the operator wins, and the retailers win as operators increase penetration and subscriptions of new, advanced services while offering consumers more options for an interactive broadband experience," said Dave Robinson, President of the Motorola Broadband Communications Sector and executive vice president of Motorola Inc. "Motorola cable modems already are available to consumers on-line and through more than 2,000 retail stores throughout the U.S., and we look forward to similar success with the digital set-top market."

The NCTA initiative comes as part of a larger effort by the cable industry to facilitate the retail availability of set-top boxes. It supplements efforts by CableLabs to develop an OpenCable Application Platform (OCAP), a "middleware" specification that provides a common software platform to make set-top boxes interoperable across cable systems and allow new features to be added electronically.

"The immediate retail availability of integrated set-tops and the development of OCAP specifications …should foster a retail market," Sachs wrote in an October 10 letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell.

The initiative, adopted by the NCTA’s Board of Directors, is comprised of four main elements:
  • Manufacturers of digital set-top boxes will be encouraged to make available to retail outlets the same converter boxes with embedded security that are made available to the local cable operator.
  • Cable operators will authorize and support the retail boxes in their systems.
  • Set-top manufacturers may offer warranties and retailers may offer optional extended maintenance contracts for the devices.
  • For cable customers who purchase a set-top box at retail, and subsequently move to another city where the set-top may not be compatible, the cable operator will offer to buy back the set-top on a depreciated basis prior to the customer’s move.
The National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) is the principal trade association of the cable television industry in the United States. NCTA represents cable operators serving more than 90 percent of the nation’s cable television households and more than 150 cable program networks, as well as equipment suppliers and providers of other services to the cable industry. In addition to offering traditional video services, NCTA's members also provide broadband services such as high-speed Internet access and telecommunications services such as local exchange telephone service to customers across the United States.

CableLabs is a research and development consortium of cable television system operators representing North and South America. CableLabs plans and funds research and development projects that will help cable companies take advantage of future opportunities and meet future challenges in the cable television industry. It also transfers relevant technologies to member companies and to the industry.

CableLabs maintains web sites at www.cablelabs.com; www.packetcable.com; www.cablemodem.com; www.cablenet.org and www.opencable.com.

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