President Obama signs STELAR into law, officially kills the CableCARD

President Obama signed off on a bill Thursday that will assure that 1 million satellite TV subscribers in rural areas will continue to have access to the major broadcast networks after Dec. 31.

Official passage of the Satellite Television Extension Act Reauthorization (STELAR) also ends the Federal Communications Commission's ban on cable set-top boxes with integrated security features, the so-called CableCARD law. Enacted in 2007, the rule never achieved its goal of creating a robust retail market for pay-TV set-tops, and it was unpopular among pay-TV operators.

As signed, the bill also renews the FCC's authority to enforce good-faith negotiations between broadcasters and pay-TV operators on retransmission deals. It restricts stations with different owners from conducting coordinated retrans deals.

At its core, STELAR allows satellite-based pay-TV operators to pull a distant broadcast signal from another market if a local affiliate for a specific network isn't available.

Cable companies, however, were pleased with the other stuff that made it onto the bill.

"CenturyLink applauds Congress and the President for reauthorizing legislation that will increase investment, innovation, competition and consumer choice in the pay-TV market," said VP for federal legislative affairs David Bartlett, in a statement obtained by Multichannel News. "STELAR goes a long way toward making retransmission consent negotiations more fair and balanced, and creates a more competitive pay-TV market for providers and consumers alike, but more video reform is needed."

For more:
- read this story from The Hill
- read this Multichannel News story

Related links:
Senate unanimously approves House's satellite TV bill
House passes satellite reauthorization bill as key opponent says he won't stand in the way
House looks to reconcile STELA, STAVRA satellite bills, keep language on CableCard elimination
Senators look to kill STAVRA if CableCard language isn't taken out
Senate passes (relatively) clean STAVRA bill
Sen. McCaskill expected to abandon attempt to add pay-TV regulation to STAVRA
Broadcasters force further dilution of STAVRA
Verizon urges FCC to get rid of the set-top integrated security ban

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