Q: Our cable company wired our house for cable about 10 years ago. Recently, we bought a satellite system and would like to stop using the cable company altogether, but recabling the house for satellite is out of the question. Can we use the existing wiring and replace the four cable boxes with satellite receivers? I have heard that this solution is not ideal, but I have also heard that we wouldn?t be able to tell the difference. Is it worth a try?
New York City
A: The quality of the cable, which should be adequate, is not your only concern. What is more important is who owns the cable?you or the cable company?
The Federal Communications Commission (fcc) defines Ocable home wiringO as the cable wiring (not including amplifiers, converters, decoder boxes, and remote-control units) located inside a subscriber?s home or apartment that has been installed by a cable operator.
Under fcc rules, when subscribers who do not own their cable wiring within their home voluntarily terminate cable service, the cable operator may leave the wiring in place or notify the subscriber that it will remove the home wiring unless the subscriber purchases it from the operator?on a replacement-cost basis. These rules are intended to encourage competition between multichannel video delivery services by allowing a homeowner who voluntarily terminates cable service to use the wiring to receive a competing multichannel video delivery service such as direct broadcast satellite, without the expense and inconvenience of installing new wire.
When a subscriber contacts the cable operator to terminate cable service voluntarily, the operator, if it owns and intends to remove the home wiring, must inform the subscriber that the cable operator owns the cable home wiring and intends to remove it. Also, the subscriber has the right to purchase it and must be told what the per-foot replacement cost and the total charge for the wiring would be.
If the homeowner declines to purchase the wiring, the cable operator may remove it within seven business days at no charge to the subscriber. The cable company must pay for any damage done to the home while removing the wire.
If the cable company fails to remove the wiring within seven business days, it forfeits its right to remove it or restrict use of the wire in the future. However, the cable company is not responsible for any signal leakage from the home wiring once service over that wiring has been terminated. That responsibility is transferred to the new service provider.
If the cable company decides to remove the wiring outside the house and leave the wiring inside, it must leave at least 12 inches of wiring from the outside wall of the house, which is sufficient to connect the new service.
Although the ink is dry on these rules, it may not be indelible. Petitions for reconsideration of the home-wiring rules are currently pending before the fcc. To monitor the commission?s progress, browse www.fcc.gov.
Donna Ballast is a communications analyst at the University of Texas at Austin and a bicsi registered communications distribution designer (rcdd). Questions can be sent to her at Cabling Installation & Maintenance or at
PO Drawer 7580,
The University of Texas, Austin, TX 78713;
tel: (512) 471-0112, fax: (512) 471-8883,