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While I Was Away

If you haven't already guessed, I spent a good chunk of the week in Austin soaking up all one needs to know (and probably a bit more) about the Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) .

Beyond the general engineering tech stuff, we did hear about some multi-room DVR deployment plans for operators such as Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and Cox Communications Inc. , and a suggestion from Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ)'s CTO that may or may not become the actual speed target for an emerging spec called MoCA 2.0. And I'm happy to report that conference organizers did not give anyone the boot for merely uttering competitive terms like HomePNA, HomePlug, WiFi, and Ultrawideband.

But it's time to come up for air again and give a quick roundup of other interesting news in the world of cable before the weekend is upon us.

  • Some big questions have emerged about the accuracy of data Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner Kevin Martin referenced regarding an old "70/70" rule that could give the agency the power to re-regulate the cable industry if MSOs pass at least 70 percent of U.S. homes and at least 70 percent of those homes actually take cable service. Despite most research showing the contrary, Martin has held that the stats he has -- from the Warren Communications cable fact book -- show penetration rates that could invoke the rule. But Communications Daily, a Warren publication, noted earlier this week that the figures provided to the FCC "aren't well suited" to determine the 70 percent threshold. In turn, two FCC commissioners -- Deborah Tate and Robert McDowell -- fired off a letter to Warren, obtained by Cable Digital News, seeking "any and all information regarding the data you provided." In a letter to the company dated Nov. 14, 2007, Tate and McDowell explain that previous FCC reports have found that "cable subscribership hovers around 60%," and therefore found it "surprising to learn that Warren Communications reported a 71.4% subscribership rate this year," even in the face of increased competition.

  • While seeds of doubt firmly planted on two FCC Commissioners could bode well for U.S. cable, one isn't taking any chances, apparently. In response to all this, Multichannel News says National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) CEO Kyle McSlarrow and some big cable MSO and cable programming brass put on the full-court press Thursday to lobby at the FCC, Capitol Hill, and the White House.

  • The P2P hits keep coming for Comcast. After a pressure group lodged a complaint with the FCC about alleged degradation and manipulation of P2P apps, word spread this week that John Hart, a California resident and Comcast customer, filed a lawsuit accusing the MSO of breach of contract and violating the state's Consumer Legal Remedies Act. He's seeking class-action status. In an email Thursday, the MSO tells us they can't comment, as they haven't been served yet. The company repeatedly has rejected the notion that it blocks Websites or online apps of any kind, but it has acknowledged using "reasonable network management techniques" to keep bandwidth consumption in check.

  • Some Cox high-speed Internet subs have complained to DSL Reports that the MSO is messing with their P2P upstream throughput... similar to the Comcast allegations. There was a time when Cox likened itself to being a "fast follower," allowing other MSOs to test the waters on things before they took the plunge. I doubt this is what they meant.

  • And let's not forget the cable rumor of the week: The SpectrumCo venture -- which comprises Comcast, Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), Cox, and Advance/Newhouse -- is in the midst of a hiring frenzy that could be the start of a new wireless service owned and operated by the cable industry. Speculation about what all this means only throws another heap of doubt about the longevity of the seemingly teetering Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) "Pivot" partnership. (See Sprint Halts 'Pivot' Expansion and Sprint to Exit SpectrumCo Venture .)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News




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