US digital cable TV subscribers are looking forward to a new freedom from proprietary systems built into their set-top boxes. From July 1 - three days before the Independence Day celebrations - the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) introduces a regulatory demand on all cable systems to work with new "digital cable-ready" television sets and home viewing equipment.
The new sets will be able to receive digital and HDTV signals via a CableCard slot, with a card from the operator providing conditional access to its services. Consumers will then be able to choose from a range of non-proprietary boxes with, say, a DVR connection or purchase a new DVR with a card-slot and built-in tuner. Any CableCard-enabled product will work on any system.
Sony reportedly plans up to 15 digital cable-ready TVs this year, including HDTV models, while Motorola will make home-theatre receivers with HDTV. While concerns remain over black market cards, and the initial one-way card system will not be able to handle video-on-demand or on-screen electronic programme guides, many believe it will help cable compete with digital satellite.
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