According to recent regulation approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), cable TV providers can now start encrypting their basic service tiers as of today. However, some MSOs may have problems taking advantage of the new rule, since their networks may not be completely updated from analog to digital. MSOs with fully digitized networks can remotely encrypt their service tier, while MSOs with analog systems must send a technician to terminate unauthorized service.
This new rule could help stem losses from service theft, which has contributed to billions of dollars in annual losses for most pay TV providers. However, there may be a few drawbacks for some loyal pay TV subscribers. For instance, if a home has cable TV in 3 rooms, with set-top boxes in 2 rooms and basic service in the 3rd room, the customer may be required to pay for another box just to restore service to the 3rd room.
Small cable providers are opposed to basic service encryption for this reason, because they think it could affect their ability to offer comparatively lower rates and hurt their competitiveness with the large pay TV providers.
It’s unlikely that widespread encryption will happen overnight, since even the large cable companies still have parts of their network in analog. There are no formal announcements as of yet from any major MSO about encrypting basic service, though it’s possible that compliance with the new regulation will be done in a piecemeal fashion, with certain regions being targeted first.