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The FCC Frenzy Over Controlling Your Cable Box

No, no and no. And oh, by the way, no.

The costs of the cards will dive if every cable provider in the country must use them, they say.

Since customers will have to go to the cable guys to get service and get the cards, letting the cable guys offer a cut-rate, card-free option will serve to freeze out the competition. Alternatively, getting everyone to use a unified standard means innovation can flourish in various devices.

_____FCC In The News_____
Law Aids School Technology, Cell Phone 911 (The Washington Post, Dec 24, 2004)
FCC Considers Cell Phone Use On Airplanes (The Washington Post, Dec 16, 2004)
A Push to Restrict Sales of Video Games (The Washington Post, Dec 16, 2004)
FCC News Archive

And they say the cable guys just can't be trusted and want to maintain control over their boxes and what their users do with them.

What will happen?

The folks at the FCC declined to talk about the issue; perhaps they were busy huddling with the lobbyists who said they had been in meetings at the agency this week. So far, the FCC's media bureau has made no formal move to urge the FCC commissioners to make a decision either way, but that is expected soon.

Speculation is that if the cable guys lose this round, it will be a key part of their agenda when Congress moves to revise the 1996 Telecommunications Act governing cable and telephone service, which is where a lot of this got started.

But as we get deeper into the digital age, these kinds of industry battles are only going to grow more numerous.

Trying to spur innovation and ensure competition when those who control the plumbing have so much power is no easy matter.

The lawyers and lobbyists, it seems, are the only sure winners.

Jonathan Krim can be reached by e-mail at krimj@washpost.com.

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