The FCC is close to giving a number of cable companies permission to encrypt basic-tier signals, according to Bloomberg.
A number of cable companies, led by Comcast, have asked for permission in the U.S. to lift an encryption prohibition which has been enforced since 1994. Encryption has been in place since the time cable dominated the industry -- in order to make sure consumers wouldn't need a set-top box to access local stations.
If accepted, then cable theft will be more difficult to accomplish -- as Comcast would be able to stop and start services remotely. The firm also said that by granting permission to encrypt basic-tier signals, service calls would be reduced.
At the moment, TV sets with modern tuners can often access unencrypted basic-service packages.
Last year, the Federal Communications Commission proposed allowing encryption following requests from companies including Cablevision and RCN Telecom Services.
RCN found that almost one-fifth of households subscribed to television services only after an audit in Chicago last year which resulted in cut-off cable connections. The firm said this was "clear evidence that they had previously been viewing cable without paying". In addition, the Virginia-based company said it has seen rising levels of theft as digital signals are easier to steal than analog services.
In a filing, Cablevision found that under a previous waiver issued by the FCC, costs were reduced as basic-tier encryption almost completely removed the need to send crews to disconnect services.
The National Cable & Telecommunications Association, which includes Cablevision, Time Warner Cable and Comcast, claimed that in 2004 roughly 5 percent of homes were using services without paying -- which equated to almost $5 billion in lost earnings.