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CEA Attacks Cable One HD Plan

Jeff Baumgartner
8/27/2008
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The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) is attacking a proposal from CableOne that urges the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to consider updating its set-top waiver rules and allow the operator to use simple one-way digital-to-analog converters capable of supporting high-definition television (HDTV) services.

In comments filed in late June, Cable One, a mid-sized MSO with about 700,000 basic subs, argued to the Commission that HD should no longer be considered an "advanced" service. (See HD No Longer an 'Advanced' Service?) Cable One, which filed the document in support of a three-year waiver being sought by Evolution Broadband LLC for standard-def digital terminal adapters (DTAs) with embedded security, said it would also like to use HD-capable DTAs as part of an analog reclamation strategy that will free up room for expanded tiers of hi-def services and allow the operator to better compete with satellite TV operators.

The CEA noted that Cable One's comments "range far beyond the scope" of Evolution's original waiver request (the CEA is already opposing that request, by the way), and should, in essence, be thrown out.

Because Cable One has not filed a petition of its own, "Cable One's request is not properly before the Commission," the CEA argued.

The CEA also held that the MSO's request "is based on a hypothetical, nonexistent product."

"A request based on a hypothetic product is not a waiver request but rather a petition to amend the Commission's rules," the CEA said, adding that the FCC shouldn't consider such a "sweeping change in policy" before hearing from all affected parties.

However, such a device for the U.S. market appears to be closer to reality than the CEA is allowing. Cable One did tell the FCC that Evolution had informed the operator that it could produce such a device and bring it to market by year's end, with units priced at less than $80 each. Earlier this month, Evolution Broadband execs told Cable Digital News that the company should have a sample of that device in-hand sometime during the next month. (See Evolution Thinks Small .)

Evolution is pitching its DTA and all-digital system to small- and mid-sized operators, considering systems built out out to 552 MHz its "sweet spot." Most "upgraded" cable systems are built out to 750 MHz or more).

But Evolution isn't the first vendor that's targeting smaller operators to find itself in the crosshairs of the CEA. The consumer electronics lobby is also butting heads with Beyond Broadband Technology LLC (BBT) , a cable consortium developing a digital cable platform that uses an "open" downloadable conditional access system (DCAS). The CEA contends that operators that want to use the BBT system must apply for a special waiver from the FCC. BBT counters that its system complies with the Commission's separable set-top security rule that went into effect last July. (See Cable Group Faces DCAS Debate.)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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