New York (AP/WSYR-TV) - Federal regulators are letting cable companies scramble all their TV signals. And that means companies can require customers to get new equipment to watch any channel.
The Federal Communications Commission voted Friday to lift a ban on encryption of basic cable signals, saying it will reduce the number of visits by cable technicians to disconnect service and reduce cable theft.
When all channels are encrypted, or scrambled, subscribers will no longer be able to plug the cable directly from the wall into their TVs; set-top boxes or converters will be needed to receive any scrambled channel.
The change will also affect households that pay for TV but have some sets hooked up directly to cable, without set-top boxes. They will need to get boxes for those sets.
Neither the FCC nor the National Cable & Telecommunications Association knows how many households are taking advantage of the unencrypted signals illegally. NCTA spokesman Brian Dietz says most of the theft is by cable modem customers who also connect their line to a TV set.
Time Warner Cable Inc. and Comcast Corp., the two largest cable companies, could not say when they will start encrypting their basic signals.