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Video services

Son of 'Waiver Central'

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Media Bureau acted on another spate of waiver requests earlier this week from operators such as RCN Corp. and WideOpenWest. Some hit the mark, while others missed, or have been given leave to file amended requests. (See FCC Awards, Denies More Box Waivers .)

Thus, we have refreshed our one-stop-shop on operator requests and FCC actions. We'll keep you apprised of more changes, but here's the latest:

Table 1: Waiver Action
Company Request FCC Media Bureau Action/Status
Armstrong Utilities Inc. Sought waiver on DCT700 until Dec. 31, 2009, or until the availability of downloadable security. Denied waiver request, noting that integrated set-tops are not necessary for the launch of new or improved services. FCC has deferred enforcement until Sept. 1, 2007. If able to document that STB vendors will be unable to fill orders for compliant devices by Sept. 1, 2007, Armstrong may file for a limited extension, "but we do not expect to routinely grant such requests," FCC said.
Atlantic Broadband Finance LLC Sought waiver on low-end set-tops. Denied waiver request, noting that integrated set-tops are not necessary for the launch of new or improved services. FCC has deferred enforcement until Sept. 1, 2007. If able to document that STB vendors will be unable to fill orders for compliant devices by Sept. 1, 2007, operator may file for a limited extension, "but we do not expect to routinely grant such requests," FCC said.
BendBroadband Sought waiver on the Motorola DCT700, an entry-level, all-digital set-top that costs less than $100 per unit. Operator argued that the box is critical to its plans to migrate to an all-digital environment. Granted waiver on condition that operator accomplish its migration to all-digital by 2008. Operator must also reach certain milestones during this period.
Bresnan Communications LLC Sought waiver of ban until deployment of downloadable security or Dec. 21, 2009, whichever is earliest. Denied waiver request, noting that integrated set-tops are not necessary for the launch of new or improved services. FCC has deferred enforcement until Sept. 1, 2007. If able to document that STB vendors will be unable to fill orders for compliant devices by Sept. 1, 2007, operator may file for a limited extension, "but we do not expect to routinely grant such requests," FCC said.
Cable & Communications Corp. and Mid-Rivers Telephone Cooperative Sought 18-month waiver on prohibition on integrated set-tops, particularly for Motorola DSR470, DCT6412/6416, DCT2000, and DCT2500. Denied waiver request, noting that integrated set-tops are not necessary for the launch of new or improved services. FCC has deferred enforcement until Sept. 1, 2007. If able to document that STB vendors will be unable to fill orders for compliant devices by Sept. 1, 2007, operators may file for a limited extension, "but we do not expect to routinely grant such requests," FCC said.
Cablevision of Marion County LLC Sought waiver on four Motorola-made models; DCT700, DCT2500, DSR410, and DSR470 Granted temporary Omnibus waiver*.
Cablevision Systems Corp. Sought permanent waiver, citing that deployed digital set-tops already use removable SmartCard-based conditional access systems (supplied by NDS Group). Grandfathered Cablevison's present use of set-tops with SmartCard technology until July 1, 2009. After that date, Cablevision must migrate to FCC-approved separable security such as the CableCard or a downloadable conditional access system.
CenturyTel Inc. Sought waiver on Motorola DSR 470 and refurbished DCT 2000 boxes. Granted temporary Omnibus waiver*.
Charter Communications Sought waiver on seven set-top box models. Granted a waiver on those models until July 1, 2008, citing the MSO's "financial difficulties" in its justification. Charter may also file a request for an extension.
Choice Cable TV (Puerto Rico) Sought waiver for DCT700. Argued that costs for CableCARD-based devices are prohibitive for an operator that serves small and rural areas, and that CableCARD-based devices are not generallly available in retail and other outlets in Puerto Rico Granted temporary Omnibus waiver*.
Comcast Corp. Sought waiver on three entry-level, all-digital models: the Motorola DCT700, Scientific Atlanta Explorer 940, and Pace Micro Technology "Chicago" DC501p. Denied Comcast's request for a waiver. MSO now seeking full FCC review of the matter.
ComSouth Telesys Inc. Sought two-year waiver based on claim that Motorola would be unable to deliver compliant boxes by July 1, 2007 deadline, and not before early September 2007. Denied request, saying operator did not assert that delivery of compliant boxes would take two years. FCC also was not swayed that submitted documentation supports operator's claim it had made substantial efforts to comply with the integration ban. Operator allowed to submit an amended request, however.
Crosslake Communications Requested deferral for Motorola DCT2000 until it could receive delivery of set-tops previously ordered that will comply with integration ban. Submitted affidavit showing it ordered units of the CableCARD-capable Motorola DCH200. Estimated that 10 such set-top boxes would be sufficient to meet the limited demand for its digital services for at least 12 months. Further, affidavit states that Motorola has informed the National Cable Television Cooperative (NCTC) that set-top vendor will not be able to deliver the boxes to the co-op until Oct. 1, 2007. Granted deferral until operator receives delivery of compliant set-tops.
CTC Video Services LLC Sought temporary waiver on four Scientific Atlanta Explorer models: 1850, 3250 HD, 8300 SD DVR, and 8300 HD DVR Granted temporary Omnibus waiver*.
En-Touch Systems Inc. Sought waiver for Motorola DCT700. Granted temporary Omnibus waiver*.
GCI Sought waiver on all new set-top boxes, acknowledging it "primarily relies" on the Motorola DCT700, an all-digital model, and two hybrid analog/digital models: the DCT1000, and DCT2000. Granted waiver on the DCT700, DCT1000, and DCT2000, but stipulated that the operator must migrate systems to all-digital by Feb. 17, 2009.
Great Plains Cable Television Inc. Request limited to boxes it deploys to subs who receive one-way service. Waiver sought until the earlier of: 1) the commercial availability of non-integrated boxes compatible with one-way cable plants and Comcast Media Center's Headend In The Sky (HITS) service; or 2) Company's upgrade to two-way cable plant. Also argued that its financial straits warrant a waiver, citing company has demonstrated negative free cash flow for 2005 and increasing net losses over the last three years. Granted waiver through July 1, 2008, based on company's ability to demonstrate "financial hardships" in the absence of a waiver for certain models of integrated security set-tops.
Guam Cablevision LLC Requested waiver on Scientific Atlanta Explorer 1850 set-top until Dec. 31, 2009. Said compliant boxes won't be available in time for integration ban. Granted limited waiver until Dec. 21, 2009, acknowledging company's requirement to maintain larger than normal inventory so service can be restored soon after disasters, such as major typhoons, strike.
Guiness Communications (Delta Cable Vision) Sought waiver on Motorola DCT 700. Granted temporary Omnibus waiver*.
Innovative Cable TV (U.S. Virgin Islands) Sought waiver on Motorola DCT1000 and DCT2000 through Dec. 31, 2009. MSO claimed those boxes were necessary for an all-digital transition, as CableCARD-based boxes would double those costs. Denied waiver, citing no evidence to suggest the costs are more substantial than those facing other operators that have committed to deploy all-digital networks on or before Feb. 17, 2009. FCC allowed operator to file an amended request.
Iowa Network Service Providers** Maintgained that they are not required to support CableCARDs because their systems rely on an all-digital distribution network. Also argued in favor of providing downloadable access solution as an option to the CableCARD. Granted temporary Omnibus waiver*.
James Cable Requested waiver for integrated Motorola-made set-tops based on argument that costs to support CableCARD-based devices would force company to suspend important upgrades. Also played up the rural nature of its systems, noting that James Cable facilities pass 40 homes per mile, versus Charter Communications, whose systems pass over 55 homes per mile. Granted waiver through July 1, 2008, based on company's ability to demonstrate "financial hardships" in the absence of a waiver for certain models of integrated security set-tops.
JetBroadband VA LLC Requested deferral to explore a plan to upgrade systems with equipment developed by Beyond Broadband Technology (BBT), a venture that is in process of building an "open" set-top platform coupled with a downloadable conditional access system. Awarded deferral until Sept. 1, 2007. Company must also submit "detailed information" to FCC regarding the openness of BBT's standards by Aug. 3, 2007.
Knology Inc. Requested waiver, believing it would not have CableCARD devices in hand until after deadline. Wanted waiver of ban until it exhausts its supply of integrated set-tops. Argued that waiver would force operator to use CableCARD solution that is "fast becoming obsolete." Denied waiver request, noting that integrated set-tops are not necessary for the launch of new or improved services. FCC has deferred enforcement until Sept. 1, 2007. If able to document that vendors will be unable to fill orders for compliant devices by Sept. 1, 2007, operator may file for a limited extension, "but we do not expect to routinely grant such requests," FCC said.
Liberty Cablevision of Puerto Rico Sought waiver for the Motorola DCT700 Granted temporary Omnibus waiver*.
Massillon Cable TV Sought waiver for the Motorola DCT700 and DCT3416, and Pace Tahoe HD-DVR, stating it had an inventory of 3,255 integrated set-tops valued at $473,544 as of June 1, 2007, and desired to exhaust this inventory. Noted it did not expect to receive compliant boxes until the end of July 2007 at the earliest, and end of September 2007 at the latest. Disclosed it launched an all-digital headend in March 2007. Denied request, holding that integrated boxes are "not necessary" in the development or introduction of new or improved services. Further, said Massillon's decision to order integrated boxes in such close proximity to the July 1, 2007, deadline "is not a circumstance beyond its control." Operator may alter its original request and seek a deferral, however.
National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) Requested industry-wide waiver until cable operators deploy downloadable security or Dec. 21, 2009, whichever is earlier. Also argued that a waiver is necessary to preserve regulatory parity with competitors such as DirecTV and Verizon. Denied waiver request, holding that it is "not adequately novel or changed from assertions that it has made to support previous extension requests to justify further relief, and it does not reflect developments in the market.� Also argued that cable's migration to all-digital "will be gradual regardless of whether their waiver request is granted." Further, FCC did not side with NCTA's argument that the additive costs of CableCARD support ($72 to $93 per box) would hinder the rollout of new services and translate to $2 to $3 in monthly lease charges to consumers. As for cable's rollout of downloadable security, "we are not convinced that cable operators in fact will deploy DCAS within the specified timeframe." On that point, FCC said NCTA represented in November 2005 that national deployment of DCAS was 2-1/2 years away, then in its waiver request in August 2006 said it expected nationwide deployment to be more than three years away. The agency also chided NCTA for being unable so far to negotiate a bidirectional plug-and-play deal with the Consumer Electronics Association, which "compels us to strictly enforce" the integration rules.
NPG Cable Inc. Requested waiver on Motorola DCT7000. Denied waiver request, noting that integrated set-tops are not necessary for the launch of new or improved services. FCC has deferred enforcement until Sept. 1, 2007. Agency also allows operator to amend original request.
OneSource Communications Sought waiver for the Motorola DCT700 entry-level all-digital box, and the DCT3416, a model with on-board DVR and HDTV capabilities. Conditionally granted waiver on the DCT700, so long as MSO commits to migrate to all-digital by Feb. 17, 2009. FCC denied waiver on the DCT3416, arguing that the model is not "critical" to the operator's all-digital ambitions.
Orange Broadband Operating Company LLC and Carolina Broadband Requested waiver on Motorola DCT7000. Denied waiver request, noting that integrated set-tops are not necessary for the launch of new or improved services. FCC has deferred enforcement until Sept. 1, 2007. If able to document that STB vendors will be unable to fill orders for compliant devices by Sept. 1, 2007, operator may file for a limited extension, "but we do not expect to routinely grant such requests," FCC said.
Qwest Communications International Sought waiver on set-tops used for VDSL- and FTTH-BPON-based video delivery systems. Argued that current VDSL set-top vendor (Motorola) does not make or has plans to develop alternate set-top boxes for this system. Added that alternative set-top box for FTTH-BPON system is available, but costs would hinder the development and implementation of next-gneration FTTH architecture, and would provide no benefit to small number of customers using this architecture. Further argued that company plans to migrate away from both types of boxes in next few years. Granted temporary Omnibus waiver*.
RCN Corp. Sought waiver on Motorola DCT700 box until February 2009, believing it is key to the MSO's transition to all-digital. Had argued that the DCT700's CableCARD-equivalent box costs three times more per unit. Granted waiver through July 1, 2008, based on company's ability to demonstrate "financial hardships" in the absence of a waiver for certain models of integrated security set-tops.
Rural ATM Digital Providers Group and IPTV Operators Group*** Sought permanent waiver, noting that certain members use Motorola's Next Level video platform, while others use IPTV to service small and rural markets. Argued that systems use proprietary network interfaces that do not, and will not, be able to comply with mandate. Costs to comply, they argued, would cause them to abandon the video market Granted temporary Omnibus waiver*.
San Bruno Municipal Cable Sought waiver for the Motorola DCT700. Granted temporary Omnibus waiver*.
Suddenlink Communications (Cequel Communications LLC) Sought waiver on Motorola DCT700, DCT2500e; Scientific Atlanta Explorer 1840, Explorer 940, and Explorer 3200; and Pace Micro "Chicago" DCT501p and "Indiana" DC511p. Argued that existing STB suppliers had not offered any "binding commitments" to deliver CableCARD devices in time for July 2007 deployment. MSO suggested that, at a minimum, it should be granted a waiver until either the end of 2009 or until DCAS can be deployed. Denied waiver request, noting that integrated set-tops are not necessary for the launch of new or improved services. FCC has deferred enforcement until Sept. 1, 2007. Agency also allows operator to amend original request.
Sunflower Broadband (The World Company) Sought waiver on Motorola DCT700 box, and requested that FCC clarify whether refurbished integrated boxes acquired on the used equipment market qualify as "new" navigation devices and are therefore not subject to the integration ban. Supplemental filing committed Sunflower to migrate to all-digital by Dec. 31, 2008, but with plans to offer "limited analog simulcast services consisting primarily of broadcast stations." Denied waiver request, noting that integrated set-tops are not necessary for the launch of new or improved services. FCC has deferred enforcement until Sept. 1, 2007. If able to document that STB vendors will be unable to fill orders for compliant devices by Sept. 1, 2007, Sunflower Broadband may file for a limited extension, "but we do not expect to routinely grant such requests," FCC said.
Verizon Sought waiver and extended use of Motorola-made "QIP" series set-tops with embedded security. Also seeking implementation of "truly interoperable downloadable conditional access system" that will comply with new security rules. Granted temporary Omnibus waiver*.
Volcano Vision Inc. Asserted it had enough set-tops in inventory for migration to all-digital. Argued that it would strand about $500,000 in set-tops if not granted a waiver. Granted temporary Omnibus waiver*.
WideOpenWest (WOW) Sought waiver for continued deployment of integrated set-tops after the deadline. Argued that enforcement of the ban will impede operator's "timely transition to a digital solution to effectively compete with Comcast and Time Warner, the established incumbent operators in its markets." Said ban would also increase the costs of replacing its 200,000-plus analog-only boxes. Granted waiver through July 1, 2008, based on company's ability to demonstrate "financial hardships" in the absence of a waiver.
Source: FCC filings and Cable Digital News research.

*Temporary Omnibus waiver was granted on condition that the company operates an all-digital system presently, or will operate an all-digital system by Feb. 17, 2009.

**Petitioners include Winnebago Cooperative Telephone Association; Radcliffe Telephone Company; South Slope Cooperative Telephone Company; Farmers� and Business Mens� Telephone Company; Dumont Telephone Company; Heart of Iowa Communications Cooperative; Kalona Cooperative Telephone Co.; West Liberty Telephone Company; Local Internet Service Company; Mahaska Communications Group LLC; Bernard Telephone Company Inc.; and La Motte Telephone.

***The members of the ATM and IPTV Providers Group are: Ace Telephone Association; All West Communications; Alliance Communications; Alliance Telecommunications Corporation; Ballard Rural Telephone Cooperative Corporation Inc.; BEVCOMM Inc.; Brandenburg Telecom LLC; Cameron Communications LLC; Cheqtel Communications Company; Chibardun Telephone Cooperative Inc.; Crystal Communications Inc. dba HickoryTech; D&E Communications; Eckles Telephone Company; EN-TEL Communications LLC; Farmers Cooperative Telephone Company; Halstad Telephone Company; Hanson Communications Inc.; Hector Communications Corporation; Home Telephone Company of South Carolina; Hometown Online Inc.; Horizon Telcom; HTC Services Inc.; Hutchinson Telecommunications Inc.; Hutchinson Telephone Company; Interstate Telecommunications Cooperative Inc.; James Valley Cooperative Telephone Company; Kaplan Telephone Company Inc.; Kasson & Mantorville Telephone Co.; Lakedale Communications LLC; Manti Tele Communications Company; MH Telecom LLC; NEP Datavision Inc.; New Ulm Telecom Inc.; Northern Valley Communications; North Central Communications Inc.; Northland Communications Inc.; Northstar Access LLC; Paul Bunyan Rural Telephone Cooperative; PBT Cable Services; Inc.; Peoples Telephone Company; Piedmont Rural Telephone Cooperative Inc.; Pine Island Telephone Company; PRTCommunications LLC; Santel Communications Cooperative; Sherburne Cable-Com Inc.; Sleepy Eye Telephone Company; South Central Rural Telephone Cooperative Inc.; South Central Telcom LLC; Split Rock Properties Inc.; Venture Vision; Volunteer Wireless Inc.; Wabash Independent Networks Inc.; West Carolina Communications; Western Telephone Company; Wood County Telephone dba Solarus; XIT Telecommunication & Technology LTD dba XIT Communications; Yadkin Valley Telecom Inc.; Ace Telephone Association dba Ace Communications Group; Ace Telephone Company of Michigan dba Ace Communications Group; Albany Mutual Telephone; All West/Utah Inc.; Alliance Communications; BEK Communications Coop; Branch Cable Inc.; Cameron Communications LLC; Chibardun Cable TV Inc.; Coleman County Telecommunications dba Coleman County Broadcasting; Consolidated Cable Vision Inc.; Consolidated Telephone Company; Coon Valley Telecommunications; Daktel Communications LLC; D&E Systems Inc.; Delta Telephone Inc.; DTC Cable Inc.; Etex Communications LP; Franklin Telephone Inc.; Hargray CATV Company Inc.; Hometown Online Inc.; Indiana Fones Inc.; Interstate Telephone Company; James Valley Cooperative Telephone Company; LaValle Long Distance LBH LLC; Marquette Adams Communications LLC; North Dakota Telephone Company; Northern Valley Communications LLC; NTELOS Media Inc.; Perry-Spencer Communications Inc. dba PSC; Pineland Telephone Cooperative Inc.; Price County Telephone Co.; Richland Grant Long Distance; Ringgold Telephone Company; Sancom Inc.; StarVision Inc.; Stockholm Strandburg Telephone Company; Tech Com Inc.; Telepak Networks Inc.; Tomorrow Valley Cable Television Inc.; Union Information Systems LLC; United Telephone Mutual Aid Corp.; Valley Communications Inc.; Venture Vision; Verneau Networks Inc.; Vernon Communications LLC; Viking Electronics dba Polar Cablevision; and Volunteer Wireless Inc.




— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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