If you subscribe to a digital cable service, you may be renting a set-top box from your cable operator. Instead of renting the box, you have the option to buy a television, set-top box, or cable-compatible computer at retail, choosing the features and price that appeal to you. To work with your cable service, the TV, set-top box, or computer should be "CableCARD-ready." Then all you need to do is rent a CableCARD from your cable operator and insert it into your device. Section 76.640(b) of the FCC's rules describes "point-of-deployment modules," which are now commonly called CableCARDs.

The FCC has rules to protect your option to use a CableCARD-ready device, and the Enforcement Bureau enforces them. These rules facilitate innovation and consumer choice in the video device marketplace and promote the goal of Section 629 of the Communications Act to create a competitive retail market for devices that can access cable video services.

In general, the rules require cable operators to provide CableCARDs, offer accurate information about retail set-top boxes and the rental cost for CableCARDs, and ensure that consumers are treated similarly, whether they choose to buy a retail device or rent a device from their cable provider.

  • Your right to receive accurate information from your cable operator about CableCARDs, including the rental price, is protected by FCC Rules 76.1205(b)(5), 76.1205(c), and 76.1602(b);
  • Your right to pay only for the equipment you have is protected by FCC Rule 76.1205(b)(5). Your cable operator must give you a discount on any packages that include the price of a set-top box if you use your own CableCARD-enabled device instead of leasing the operator's set-top box;
  • Your right to use your own set-top box without extra charge is protected by FCC Rule 76.1205(b)(5)(C). (Your cable operator may charge you to lease a CableCARD or tuning adapter, but may not charge you an additional service fee for using your own digital-cable-ready television or set-top box);
  • Your right to install your CableCARD yourself (as long as your device comes with installation instructions and a toll-free support line) is protected by FCC Rule 76.1205(b)(1);
  • Your right to receive the number of CableCARDs you request whether you choose professional installation or self installation is protected by FCC Rule 76.1205(b)(3);
  • Your right to receive a multi-stream CableCARD that can allow you to access multiple simultaneous channels is protected by FCC Rule 76.1205(b)(2);
  • Your right to use your device with a CableCARD to receive all "linear" channels (channels other than "on-demand") in your subscription package, including premium and specialty channels, is protected by FCC Rule 76.1205(b)(4). (For some channels delivered using a technique called "switched digital video," you may need a second device called a "tuning adapter," which is typically provided at no additional charge.)

The Enforcement Bureau issued an Enforcement Advisory emphasizing the Commission's commitment to strictly enforce these rules in order to ensure proper support for CableCARD devices and encouraging cable operators to review their policies, procedures, and operations to ensure their compliance. The Enforcement Bureau reviews complaints to determine if cable systems comply with the rules.

You can file a complaint about CableCARD practices using the FCC's online complaint form at www.fcc.gov/complaints. If you have questions about our enforcement of the CableCARD rules, you can email the Enforcement Bureau at CableCARDEnf@fcc.gov.

Advisories Applicable Laws
Enforcement Advisory for Cable Operators Revised CableCARD Rules (News Release)
CableCARDs:  Know Your Rights  
Consumer Fact Sheet: Digital Cable Compatibility: CableCARD-Ready Devices  



This page last updated October 23, 2013