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Forest J. Handford

Pawtucket RI


April 22, 2007

Amy Cohn

Executive Director of Public Affairs

Cox Communications

Dear Ms. Cohn:

Over the last few months I have been working on a project to reduce global warming.  A recent focus of this project was devoted to identifying inefficient devices in the home and office.  Electricity in most of the United States is created through processes that create carbon dioxide.  For example, the burning of coal and diesel create carbon dioxide.

National Grid provides electricity to 3.4 million customers in the northeastern United States.  For every megawatt hour of electricity they generate 818.205 pounds of carbon dioxide is released into the Earth’s atmosphere adding to global warming.

Your digital cable customers use a Motorola DCT 2224 cable box that uses 15 watts when on and 14 watts when ‘off’.  If a customer were to have this box on for a conservative average of 4 hours a day it would use 1.8 kilowatt hours (KWH) a month.  This leaves the box off 20 hours using 8.4 KWH.

The 1.8 KWH caused from the box being on creates 1.47 pounds of carbon dioxide for your customers who use national grid (other electric providers will have similar results).  The 8.4 KWH creates 6.87 pounds of carbon dioxide.  Combined, the cable box you provide to your customers will create an average of 8.35 pounds of carbon dioxide a month or 100.2 pounds per year.

The average car registered in the United States creates 4 – 5 tons of carbon dioxide in a year.  This means that 100 of these cable boxes combined creates more carbon dioxide than the average car!  As the fourth largest cable provider in the United States you are dramatically hurting the environment through your use of Motorola’s digital cable box.

Recently I spoke with technical support at Cox Communications about this issue.  I was hoping there was a low power setting that could be used to decrease the energy the boxes use while turned off.  I was told no such mode existed.  I then inquired why the box was continually using power when it was no longer broadcasting a signal to a television.  The representative indicated that it was to keep the television listings current.

Through further research I discovered that if an environmentally conscious customer wanted to reduce their electricity use by unplugging the box during periods of disuse the box would take at least three minutes to re-initialize enough to allow the customer to change the channel. During the three minutes of initialization the user can only view the last channel watched with part of the television obscured by the initialization message.  As I believe you will agree, this is a very aggravating amount of time to wait in the digital age.

I strongly urge you and your company to consider the environmental damage that is being caused by these boxes.  I will be sending a similar letter to Motorola

As a computer scientist it is my firm belief that this box is extremely inefficient.  A Motorola cable modem that is on 24 hours a day only uses 3 watts of electricity.  If the cable box is truly using the network it is an abuse of your network bandwidth.  While your current network may handle this load; as HD becomes more wide-spread and as other technologies emerge you will find no matter how fast your network is it will create a bottle-neck amplified by this extra traffic.  When customers can choose to receive a signal from satellite that has no bandwidth limitation you will find your competition at a great advantage (and cost savings) over you.

Since most programs last at least 30 minutes a more efficient cable box could be designed to go into a sleep, or low-power, mode every 30 minutes.  This low power setting could easily run on less than 4 watts providing more than a 72% reduction in power use and carbon dioxide generation. 

Please take some time to consider this information and to pursue a solution.  I hope Motorola will develop a more efficient device that you can start deploying, but if they cannot I strongly urge you to seek another vendor.

Sincerely,

Forest J. Handford

EastCoastGames.com

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