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Video services

Déjà Vu

Two smaller operators that were originally denied waivers for set-tops with integrated security got some relief last week after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) granted waivers to Massillon Cable TV and Innovative Cable TV on the condition that they go all-digital by February 2009.

The FCC ban on integrated security boxes went into effect last July, forcing many cable MSOs to deploy set-tops with removable CableCARDs. (See Countdown to 'Seven-Oh-Seven'.)

Massillon Cable, an op based in Massillon, Ohio, originally requested waivers on several set-top models, including the Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) DCT700 and DCT3416 and the Pace Micro Technology Tahoe HD-DVR. Massillon Cable wanted to exhaust its inventory and argued that it did not expect to receive complaint boxes until September 2007 at the latest. Innovative Cable TV of St. Thomas-St. John in the Caribbean had sought a waiver on Motorola DCT1000s and DCT2000s through Dec. 31, 2009 to fuel an all-digital migration. Although the FCC denied both requests, it did give both operators the opportunity to amend their original waiver filings. (See Son of 'Waiver Central' .)

And it appears that they did so by agreeing to go all-digital by next February, a precedent established when the FCC granted a conditional waiver to BendBroadband in January 2007. The Bend, Ore.-based operator expects to collapse its analog tier by the end of this year.

Dozens of other video service operators made similar commitments just ahead of the July 2008 set-top ban in exchange for an "omnibus" waiver. (See Verizon & Others Get Their Waivers.)

The FCC did not specify in its opinion and order which set-top models apply to the newly issued waiver, but the agency did stipulate that Massillon Cable and Innovative Cable reach certain milestones prior to the migration. For starters, they have until March 28 to file sworn declarations committing to move to all-digital on or before Feb. 17, 2009. They also have 60 days to alert their analog customers of those plans and to reissue the alert six months before the transition is complete.

But that's not the end of waiver-related battles. Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) is appealing the FCC's decision to deny (repeatedly) the MSO's waiver request on three entry-level set-top models with baked-in security. (See Comcast Takes CableCARD Battle to Court .) Comcast is also said to be pursuing an all-digital migration strategy fueled by a yet-to-be-built (and relatively inexpensive) digital terminal adapter. (See Comcast Pursuing $35 Digital Dongle. )

― Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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