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Cablevision Pays Up for SDV

Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) has agreed to voluntarily pay $25,000 and give subscribers adequate notice that one-way CableCARD-capable digital TVs and TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO) boxes can't inherently receive channels delivered on the MSO's "switched" video tiers, according to a Consent Decree released Monday by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) .

Cablevision agreed to that, as well as a set of "compliance measures," following an FCC investigation into whether the MSO had provided sufficient, advanced notice to subscribers and local franchise authorities (LFAs) prior to implementing any "service change." FCC rules require cable systems to provide 30 days' written notice to both subscribers and LFAs before implementing any rate or service.

The service change, in this case, is the introduction of switched digital video (SDV), a technique Cablevision is using across the board to get more efficient use of its existing bandwidth to free up the delivery of more high-definition channels and some niche programming tiers.

The rub is that one-way CableCARD devices can't access that programming without being tethered to a separate device called the Tuning Adapter, which resembles a small all-digital set-top box. (See NCTA Sees Solution to Switching Snag and CableLabs Stamps SDV Tuning Adapters .)

Such settlements are becoming common practice among MSOs that use SDV. Last fall, Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), agreed to pay the same amount over similar allegations tied to its SDV rollout in Hawaii. (See TWC, FCC Settle Switching Spat .)

The FCC has also "vacated" an earlier ruling that would have hit TWC and Cox Communications Inc. with $60,000 in fines over allegations that they "willfully" prevented unidirectional CableCARD-based devices from accessing channels that were moved to an SDV tier. Together, the settlements and vacated rulings are expected to remove a chilling effect on switched digital video, and could spur further adoption of the technology this year and beyond by other US MSOs. (See FCC Reverses SDV Ruling and Is SDV Poised for a Comeback?)

According to the FCC-Cablevision settlement, the MSO has also agreed to:
  • Provide advance written notice to each LFA where it's using SDV to deliver programming that can't be accessed by one-way TVs and DVR boxes without additional equipment

  • Develop procedures to ensure that it notifies all affected customers and all relevant LFAs at least 30 days in advance of employing SDV technology

  • File a compliance report with the FCC on April 1, 2011.


— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable



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