Senators look to kill STAVRA if CableCARD language isn't taken out

It has already cleared the Senate Commerce Committee, but a push is being made to let STAVRA expire on Dec. 31 if language isn't removed from the bill that stipulates the end of the CableCARD rule.

Following the Nov. 4 national election, Sen. Richard Blumenthal joined Sen. Ed Markey in calling for the Senate to let STAVRA expire on Dec. 31 if language terminating the integrated set-top security ban isn't removed from the bill. The group Public Knowledge is also pushing for the language to come out.

"Every U.S. senator should know that American consumers are watching them as they decide whether to maintain choice and competition in the set-top box marketplace," said Christopher Lewis, VP for government affairs for Public Knowledge. "Americans already have few choices for pay-TV offerings and face ever increasing prices on these services."

It's a scenario that explores new frontiers in wonkishness: Passage of the Satellite Television Access and Viewer Rights Act (STAVRA) would renew the ability of satellite operators to pipe in broadcast signals from distant affiliate stations to rural markets that are unable to receive a broadcast signal from a particular network.

Before the bill made it out of the Senate Commerce Committee in mid-September, it was stripped of all sorts of riders, including a so-called "Local Choice" rule that would eliminate broadcast retransmission payments as we know them.

Kept in the bill, however, was language ending a 7-year-old Federal Communications Commission rule, the integrated security ban, which requires pay-TV companies to handle set-top security features through a system known as CableCARD.

The rule was intended to spur a robust market for pay-TV set-tops sold at retail, but that hasn't happened.

The cable industry, led by the National Cable Telecommunications Association, has pushed for an end to the integrated security ban. Retail set-top giant TiVo, meanwhile, is working to keep it in place.

For more:
- read this Politico story
- read this Multichannel News story

Related links:
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