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Cable/Video

The Friday (the 13th) Five

Here's our quasi-weekly look at a handful of other stuff that happened in the world of cable this week that bears sharing or repeating:

  • It was USA Today's turn to scare the masses a little about the February 2009 digital TV transition, though most of the focus was on how cable subscribers will be affected. To the story's credit, it did start off by noting that most customers don't have much to worry about, since the majority of cable operators will be delivering "must-carry" stations in digital and analog formats.

    But, the piece also noted that some operators will be reclaiming analog spectrum and going all (or at least mostly) digital, noting that some consumers might be "baffled" by digital boxes, including those simple-as-pie Digital Terminal Adapters (DTAs) Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) will be deploying later this year. Oh, and consumers might be likewise perplexed by those new, oh-so-tricky remote controls.

    Even if these devices are truly plug-and-play, the story makes some good points. These DTAs (like other digital set-tops) won't change channels as quickly as they do in analog environments (though the vendors claim they're working on ways to speed it up), and some consumers, no matter what nifty extras you throw at them, just despise set-tops... and any added fees that may come along with them, of course.

  • Still, it will be hard to believe that those DTAs won't be easier to install and operate than some of the over-the-air digital converters that millions of consumers will rely on come next February. I mean, does this product review of the EchoStar DTVPal really scream simplicity? A 38-page manual? Perhaps this is easy to figure out for people who are comfortable with new gizmos, but many folks who still rely on over-the-air broadcast signals aren't exactly in the tech-savvy category.

  • The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted an order this week that aims to "increase the precision and quality of broadband subscriber data" culled every six months from broadband ISPs. (See FCC Boosts B'band Data Collection.) Great, can't wait to see what they find out.

    One interesting nugget to consider in the meantime: The FCC, for the purpose of its new reporting parameters, now defines "Basic Broadband" as speeds in the range of 768 kbit/s to 1.5 Mbit/s. The former basic broadband bottom used to be 200 kbit/s. But, don't worry, it's still got its own category. Speeds in the range of 200 kbit/s to 768 kbit/s are now defined as "First Generation Data." Guess that sounds better than calling it the "Sucks to Be You Tier."

  • Comcast is upping the upstream of two tiers – Performance and Perfomance Plus – but has also indentified Sacramento as one of the next markets to get Blast!, the MSO's 16 Mbit/s (downstream) tier.

  • I’m getting the sense that Docsis 3.0 is leaving the cable industry's marketing lexicon pretty rapidly. After all, "Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification 3.0" isn't exactly the kind of snazzy brand the ad guys are looking for as the cornerstone of their next high-speed Internet service marketing campaign.

    Nope, seems "Wideband" is now the public term the industry is favoring, just as tru2way supplanted what used to be called the OpenCable Platform. Case in point: I read through the written remarks National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) president and CEO Kyle McSlarrow made at the National Press Club on Monday (June 9). I counted eight references to "wideband" and a big goose egg for "Docsis." Just sayin'…

Until next week…

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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