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Everyone Hearts the Tuning Adapter!

5:10 PM -- The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is considering some tweaks to the existing CableCARD rules, and one of the more divisive debates centers on whether the Commission should apply some new policies related to switched digital video (SDV).

Today, one-way CableCARD-capable hosts need a special Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT)- or Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)-made tuning adapter to access channels in a switched tier. TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO) helped develop the concept, but it's been complaining loudly about the size of those adapters (too big) and decrying what it says is a lack of TLC by the cable industry in regard to installation practices. (See Policy Watch: TiVo, Cable Trade SDV Barbs and TiVo, Cable Re-Spark SDV Debate .)

Instead, it wants the FCC to consider an entirely new system that uses an IP backchannel. The cable industry says the tuning adapters work just fine and that the FCC shouldn't apply any such mandate for this round of rule changes. (See TiVo: Cable Should Love It Some IP.)

Cox Communications Inc. recently met with the FCC to punctuate the cable position, offering a listing of testimonials from MSO customers that illustrated their experiences with tuning adapter installations. According to the handout, the quotes were from TiVo surveys conducted around the launch of tuning adapters in the Cox Orange County and North Virginia systems.

Not surprisingly, none of the evidence shared offered a negative reaction. Some of the testimonials come off as downright giddy. Some examples:

  • “Extremely easy installation. Calling into Cox via phone was also very easy as they already had my number on record and authorized both TAs right away. Could not have been easier. GREAT JOB TiVo AND COX.”

  • “Very surprised it went so fast! I kept waiting for the red light to blink and I must have missed it since the amber light went solid amber quickly. Tested the channels I knew I didn’t get and they were there. Very happy! Glad I got 2 as well!”

  • “Very smooth and I didn’t even have to call Cox to activate – the adapter worked right out of the box.”

  • “Extremely simple. The Cox representative I spoke with was extremely helpful.”

Is it that Cox has simply cracked the code on the foibles of the tuning adapter? Well, Cox does tend to get some of the higher customer satisfaction marks among cable operators.

But it's obvious that Cox's illustrative showing at the FCC doesn’t tell the whole story, because there's evidence that others have had a less than optimal experience with the tuning adapter, complaining of persistent reboots and other issues.

But the FCC will have to weigh the good with the bad on this one. Tuning adapters today apply to a small (but vocal) segment of the cable subscriber universe. Cisco, for example, has shipped more than 42,000 tuning adapters so far, and expects to ship 35,000 adapters annually over the next several years.

There are plenty of complaints to go with the glowing reviews of the tuning adapter. But are there enough of them to justify a new FCC mandate? Or is the tuning adapter band-aid good enough for now, at least until the agency moves ahead on its broader "AllVid" inquiry, which could take years (and maybe some lawsuits) before all is settled?

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:28:28 PM
re: Everyone Hearts the Tuning Adapter!

Should mention that some of those complaints have come after the install, but they are complaints just the same.  No TA needed in this households, so i have no testimonial to share, positive or negative.  Anyone out there care to share their experiences? JB

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