Video services

Cox Faces Set-Top Fee Flap

Welcome to today's broadband and cable news roundup.

  • Cox Communications Inc. is under fire for charging set-top box rental fees to customers wanting TV services beyond the basic tier. Stanley Feldman, a former state Supreme Court judge, is asking a district court in Tucson to ban Cox from forcing customers to pay the monthly US$6.99 fee. He wants an option to buy the equipment from third parties. The case started as a national class-action lawsuit against Cox, but a federal judge in Oklahoma rejected it, ruling that customers can file individual complaints in their home states, reports the Arizona Daily Star. Cable has pursued the retail angle with tru2way, but the common middleware/headend platform failed to spur a retail market for cable set-tops. (See Tru2way: Epic Fail at Retail.)

    But there's some hope. Under a new Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rule, cable operators that choose to encrypt their basic tier in all-digital systems must provide the technical means for retail video devices to receive those channels. Initially that will be solved using a Digital Terminal Adapter (DTA) with home networking capabilities that can decrypt the signal and pass it to an IP-connected retail device. It's understood that a new breed of HD-DTAs will include more flexible security mechanisms that will allow for the support of support higher-level tiers, including premium cable TV services. (See Cable Cleared to Encrypt Basic TV Tiers .)

  • Cleveland-based private equity firm Reliance Capital Partners has acquired telecom infrastructure services company Advanced Communications Inc. (ACI). Financial terms weren't disclosed. Canton, Mich.-based ACI employs about 1,000 technicians and counts Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Charter Communications Inc. , Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) and Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) among its clients.

  • Comcast has appointed Kyle McSlarrow to regional VP of the Mountain Region, which oversees operations in Utah and Arizona. McSlarrow joined the cable operator in April 2011 as president of its Comcast/NBCU Washington, D.C., division before serving six years as president and CEO of cable's primary lobbying arm, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) . He will report to Steve White, president of Comcast cable's West division.

  • The ETEX Telephone Cooperative of Northeast Texas is launching a mix of managed IPTV and over-the-top multiscreen video services powered by Harmonic Inc. (Nasdaq: HLIT)'s ProStream 1000 video process/transcoder and ProMedia Package adaptive stream preparation systems. Harmonic says the system can handle video and audio transcoding of 20 HD or 60 standard-definition channels for broadcast and 80 profiles for OTT multiscreen applications.

    — Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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