Cable Tech

Say No to CableCARDs?

Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) aren't the only ones crying foul over the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) 's rejection of Comcast's request for a waiver of the agency's upcoming integrated set-top ban. (See Comcast Cries CableCARD Foul.)

Smaller cable operators are pretty worked up too. In a strong statement issued Thursday evening, the American Cable Association (ACA) expressed "grave concern" over the Commission's July 1 deadline for deployment of CableCARD-enabled digital set-tops.

ACA President Matthew Polka said the group "highly appreciates" the FCC's sensitivities to "the unique concerns of smaller operators" in the Media Bureau's spate of set-top box orders earlier this week. Indeed, at the same time that it rejected Comcast's waiver request, the Commission granted a similar one from BendBroadband on the condition that it fulfill its pledge to go all-digital by December 2008.

But, even though Bend got what it wanted, Polka called it "unrealistic for most smaller cable companies" to follow Bend's example. He argued that few smaller operators will be able to go all-digital by the government's DTV deadline of February 2009.

In the statement, Polka also disputed the FCC's contention that low-cost set-top boxes like the Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) DCT-700 are not critical to the further deployment of digital and video-on-demand (VOD) services. He contended that the set-top ban and deadline will force smaller operators "to use their scarce resources to comply, making it even more difficult to move forward in the digital transition."

The ball's in your court, FCC.

— Alan Breznick, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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