CEA Asks Court to Block DTV Tuner Rule

Attorneys sometimes succeed where lobbyists fail.

That is the hope of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). On October 11, the trade association filed a petition with the US Appeals Court in Washington, DC, seeking an injunction to block a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) order mandating that digital tuners be installed in all TV receivers by July 2007.

The CEA has long maintained that including DTV tuners in television receivers is redundant since most consumers use set-top converter boxes (STBs) to receive their TV signals. Including digital tuners on new products could add anywhere from $15 to $250 to the retail price of new TVs, depending on who makes the estimate.

The CEA's petition, made with little fanfare, claims that the DTV tuner requirement was made outside the FCC's "jurisdiction and statutory authority," in violation of the Communications Act of 1934. The mandate is "arbitrary, capricious . . . and an abuse of discretion," CEA lawyers claim.

The FCC commissioners believe that they acted within authority granted them by the "All-Channel Receiver Act" (ACRA), a forty-year-old law enacted during the early days of analog color television that requires all television receivers to be capable of picking up "all frequencies." The CEA contends that the ACRA does not apply to frequencies delivered by "all technologies," specifically digital. The law "fails to provide a legal basis for the Commission's imposition of a requirement on manufacturers," CEA attorneys contend.