My Charter system (Shawnee, OK) was recently purchased by Allegiance Communications. Being a suburb of Oklahoma City we're actually bigger than any of their other markets (rural Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Missouri, etc.) and they moved their HQ to Shawnee. Within a few weeks of the announcement they also quietly added HD, and within another few weeks I had a 47" 1080p LCD, a Yahaha 2700 and an S3.
My first call to the office they told me they were phasing out CC's. The 2nd call, I was told that they didn't support them. I politely asked if they were small enough to get an FCC exemption or what and after a few minutes on hold I got "we can install them but we won't guarantee that they'll work, we haven't had much luck with them." Rather than schedule a half day window to get them installed I went to the office (international HQ, you know) and asked. I got a nice girl named Tasha to help me and after some amount of begging and assuring that I would help them learn about them so they could provide better support, she brought me 2 Motorola cards and sent me on my way with instructions to call back the next day to pair the cards. She also said that they had exactly TWO cards working in town, and had stuggled with all of their installations. Someone else who sounded more technical walked by and said, "just have him call back with his host and data #'s." I figured, "this will be cake" and headed home.
Next morning I called back, gave host and data info along with the s/n of the cards. I hadn't read enough here so I didn't know that when I got the swirly screen on the channel test that nothing was ever going to happen so I let her off the phone. When it timed out I called Tivo and the Tech Support rep led me to the the Conditional Access screen where it said (among other info):
she basically said that the Enabled Y meant that the card was paired and communicating with the cableco and that with some other info she thought everything was cool with the Tivo and card, but that the card wasn't authorized properly at the cableco. I called back and Tasha said that the technical girl (Kelly it turns out) said that the data might have changed, according to a field tech from Grove, OK who had done 15+ Cablecard installs (go figure that Grove, OK would have 15 cablecard capable TV's). Sure enough, it had, but only in the last 2 minutes. We remarried and the same thing happened, swirly screen. She had to leave the office but said Kelly would call me back, but that Kelly was working dispatch also. Turns out, that meant Kelly was way tied up and would never call me back and I would waste my day sitting around, but reading this forum a lot.
Yesterday I had to take the afternoon off to run some other errands and I just took the S3 by the CO. Turns out the technician from Grove and one of their better Shawnee techs were in the office. After talking with them and Kelly for 10 minutes I managed to get them to let me bring the S3 in and hook it up. We tried the 2 cards they had given me and got the same results. They got 2 more cards and we got them working (auth: Authorized, I believe). We hooked up with composite there so I didn't think I could test HD channels there, and when I got home, all digitals work, including remaps of all the analog channels, but no HD's.
So, what did I learn so far:
1) I don't believe the cards are all "bad." Amazingly the technicians didn't think it was weird at all for some to be bad and they said they have similar problems with their boxes. They also used lots of technical terms like "the box gets confused when you hit it too much."
2) I just think the cableco's are incompetent, but it's not a strategic incompetency. After seeing my CO yesterday, it's a friggin' miracle this stuff works. Their level of local technical expertise is pretty low, they just outsource the headend stuff to HITS. The Cox's of the world outsource everything to Cox central, so it's a similar situation. Probably other cableco's have better systems, but geez.
3) I think the cablecard concept is poorly implemented. The fact that you phone in a Host/Data combo and they "hit" the card and the data number flips is proof. They're trying to keep people from transporting the cards to different devices, but it's not like you can't unhook your cable box and take it somewhere else. They have locked this down to the point of being absurd and this is causing a lot of the issues. The data string is a ridiculous addition and they would have been fine just using the host and card address/sn. I can't imagine what abuse they're trying to stop with the stupid data thing.
I do think we'll get it working, but if they don't start putting CableCards into their own boxes, they're never going to work out these problems. There are clearly issues with how the cards are authorized/initialized/logged/whatever. I found it interesting that they were logging the S/N of the card, and somewhere in the system this was apparently tied to the address.