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Old 01-10-2007, 07:29 PM   #1
dt_dc
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FCC issues (some) decisions in integration ban waivers

Articles:
http://www.multichannel.com/article/...=Breaking+News
http://www.broadcastingcable.com/article/CA6406657.html

FCC Press Release:
http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_publi...C-269446A1.pdf

Rulings:

CableVision - http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_publi...DA-07-48A1.pdf

Comcast - http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_publi...DA-07-49A1.pdf

BendBroadband - http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_publi...DA-07-47A1.pdf

Comments on BBT (downloadable security) - http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_publi...DA-07-51A1.pdf

The above are available from the Media Bureau page:
http://www.fcc.gov/mb/

Basically ... Comcast and big cable companies were shot down. Small cable companies have some wiggle room. CableVision is a bit of a unique situation ...

Nothing yet regarding Verizon.

Congress and / or the courts will be next ...
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Old 01-10-2007, 07:31 PM   #2
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NCTA comments:
http://www.ncta.com/ContentView.aspx...contentId=3766
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Old 01-10-2007, 07:38 PM   #3
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Great info, thanks. So what about existing deployed set top boxes that are not already CC compatible?. Would Comcast and other "bigs" have to replace them with CC compatible boxes right away when Jul 1 2007 rolls around? Or does it only apply to new deployments of set top boxes going forwards? I suppose for instance the Motorola DCT series of set tops would have to be replaced with the DCH series at some point in time.
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Old 01-10-2007, 08:13 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by moyekj
So what about existing deployed set top boxes that are not already CC compatible?. Would Comcast and other "bigs" have to replace them with CC compatible boxes right away when Jul 1 2007 rolls around? Or does it only apply to new deployments of set top boxes going forwards? I suppose for instance the Motorola DCT series of set tops would have to be replaced with the DCH series at some point in time.
The integration ban applies to new boxes deployed after 7/07. So yes, cable companies can keep using their existing integrated boxes ... they don't have to all of a sudden replace their entire inventory. They can also re-use integrated boxes. Ie, customer turns in an integrated box after 7/07 ... the cable company can lease that box to another customer.

What's also interesting ... the way the regulation is worded ... cable companies can't (or at least aren't supposed to) buy up a whole bunch of new integrated boxes now to deploy after the ban. Ie, the cable companies can re-deploy integrated boxes ... but they can't deploy new ones. No clue exactly how that would be enforced ... but that's the way it's worded.

Basically ... after 7/07 cable companies won't be buying any new DCT boxes ... they'll be buying new DCH boxes. They'll have both deployed in the field (untill all the DCT boxes die / fade away / whatever).
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Old 01-10-2007, 08:24 PM   #5
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Yes, thanks much for the info! Bedtime reading....
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Old 01-10-2007, 08:52 PM   #6
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(probably a) Dumb question.

If the Cable companies are going to have to had out Cable Card boxes starting in 7 months, isn't that going to put a crimp in SDV? Or can the DCHs do something that the S3 can't?
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Old 01-10-2007, 09:20 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by GoHokies!
If the Cable companies are going to have to had out Cable Card boxes starting in 7 months, isn't that going to put a crimp in SDV? Or can the DCHs do something that the S3 can't?
The CableCard capable boxes being sold to cable companies to lease to customers will be perfectly capable of SDV, VOD, iPPV, running the cable company's EPG, etc. etc.

Lack of SDV in the S3 is not a 'CableCard' limitation ... it's a 'standards' (and licensing and a few other things) limitation.

So no, it's not going to put a crimp in SDV.
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Old 01-10-2007, 09:37 PM   #8
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Um, I do believe SDV is a limitation of CC 1.0, since SDV requires 2-way communication and CC 1.0 can't do 2-way communication. But I could be wrong.
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Old 01-10-2007, 09:47 PM   #9
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The CableCard 1.0 standard does 2-way. Just not in unidirectional devices like the S3...

http://www.opencable.com/primer/cablecard_primer.html
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Old 01-10-2007, 10:34 PM   #10
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The cable companies can do Switched video with the OCAP boxes contracted from LG, Panasonic, and Samsung, as well as the OCAP capability of current Moto boxes. There has been a proposal for a waiver based on a low cost OCAP less box capable of Bidi- apparently FCC left Comcast an out for reapplying for waiver for such a low cost box.

I thought it was interesting that this seemed to give FCC blessing for downloadable security like DCAS- although it was somewhat ambiguous since it refered to FCC requirements. The way it is worded, I think they could still mean FCC approval only if the ASIC is on a physically removable card.

Something I just don't understand is why the FCC thinks it has a mandate to get Cableco's to modify their networks to go all digital. It is a high priority because they would entertain allow Comcast "to seek waiver based on a commitment to go all-digital by a date certain such as February 2009."

What is the basis in law for FCC's goal that cableco's not carry analog encoded video?
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Old 01-10-2007, 11:19 PM   #11
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"The Bureau also noted that Cablevision has
ensured that its SmartCard works with all consumer electronics devices that can use
CableCARDs."

Really? How does that work? Anyone got one (two) in an S3?
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Old 01-10-2007, 11:33 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vman41
"The Bureau also noted that Cablevision has
ensured that its SmartCard works with all consumer electronics devices that can use
CableCARDs."

Really? How does that work? Anyone got one (two) in an S3?
I gather from the article they have a CableCard device that you insert the SmartCard into.
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Old 01-10-2007, 11:34 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dt_dc
When they make such outlandish claims, they do nothing but look childish and stupid.

As pointed out here, it's not like this all happens overnight; it's just the beginning, and no doubt the economy of scale is going to kick in as well.
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Old 01-11-2007, 12:05 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Justin Thyme
I thought it was interesting that this seemed to give FCC blessing for downloadable security like DCAS- although it was somewhat ambiguous since it refered to FCC requirements. The way it is worded, I think they could still mean FCC approval only if the ASIC is on a physically removable card.
I know the Cable Companies wnat to reduce costs everywhere they can, so the socket and connector of a removable card will always seem 'expensive' to them.

But I like the idea. I hope it is seomthing that the FCC will strive for. I'm not sure if the CableCARD spec allows it, but eventually I'd like to see a technology where I can move the CAS device aroundmy home from device to device without notifying the Cable Company, and without them needing to do anything.

That's the down side of DCAS, even if it catches on in CE equipment. If it's fixed in the box, I'll have to constantly call the cable company if I want to save money by only activating a subset of my devices at one time - Which some people are likely to do given all these 'addtiional outlet' fees.

-Kyle
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Old 01-11-2007, 12:36 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Justin Thyme
What is the basis in law for FCC's goal that cableco's not carry analog encoded video?
Congress trying to cover their a$$ ... er, sorry ... Congress instructed the FCC to 'promote the digital transition'.
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Old 01-11-2007, 04:34 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dt_dc
*shakes head* Are they really that stupid? The whole point is that consumers can stop renting those f'ing cable boxes in the first place. We want a tivo. Most people will be happy to shove a cableCARD(tm) in their spankin-new HD TV and be done with it... pretty much the same thing we've been able to do for almost 20 years with "cable ready" TVs. (sans the scrambled premium channels.)

I don't doubt the "$600mil" number. Let's be truthful about that "tax". That's money the cableco's are going to have to make up somewhere else when people stop renting those blasted cable set-top boxes. And they'll have to charge more for those who do still rent them because they'll have to replace them with new cableCARD(tm) based ones.
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Old 01-11-2007, 01:55 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by cramer
*shakes head* Are they really that stupid? The whole point is that consumers can stop renting those f'ing cable boxes in the first place. We want a tivo. Most people will be happy to shove a cableCARD(tm) in their spankin-new HD TV and be done with it... pretty much the same thing we've been able to do for almost 20 years with "cable ready" TVs. (sans the scrambled premium channels.)

I don't doubt the "$600mil" number. Let's be truthful about that "tax". That's money the cableco's are going to have to make up somewhere else when people stop renting those blasted cable set-top boxes. And they'll have to charge more for those who do still rent them because they'll have to replace them with new cableCARD(tm) based ones.
Actually, earlier in the thread it says that only new deployments (and possibly only new *purchases*) need to be CableCARD based. Existing boxes can continue to be used.

I'd like to see the FCC stick to its guns about CAS portability. I think the CableCARD regulations should already allow end users to move the cards between devices. By allowing DCAS it seems like the FCC will be allowing the CableCo's more freedom to lock access to a specific device, and require us to call them and pay '(Remote) installation fees' to move the access to new deivces we might buy.

-Kyle
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Old 01-11-2007, 02:28 PM   #18
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Just finished the speed read of the Comcast ruling.

All I can say is WOW!

Looks like the FCC has been clipping every snippet in print that Comcast has said for the past few years and been storing it to use against them. The amount of footnotes using Comcast’s own comments to poke wholes in their reasoning is pretty amazing. Some pages have more footnotes than actual text!

Now I know what big companies make their lawyers filter every public word. They have quotes that look like they come from magazine articles and other stuff like that.
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Old 01-11-2007, 02:51 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by dt_dc
Congress trying to cover their a$$ ... er, sorry ... Congress instructed the FCC to 'promote the digital transition'.
Which congress was that? The congress that was going to only honor a fraction of the vouchers on a first come first served basis, or the congress that says that the government is not going to make a 10 billion profit, while the poorest americans are left to pick up the bills for converter boxes?

Was that the congress that was willing to accomodate the business interests of cablecos wanting to lock out competitors to their set top boxes? Sure, maybe there was a deal in there somewhere to "work with business" (to trade compliance with the 1996 Telecom law) in order to make the plight of po' folk less burdensome. If cutting such deals with business worked so well for FEMA on the Katrina contracts, why not with the FCC? I recall a mandate for subsidizing analog cable users during the digital transition of public airwaves. The mandate was not to subsidize cableco's efforts to coerce their analog users over to digital cable.

Let's take note that Pelosi's constituency in San Francisco is using public airwaves for public wireless access. Is it possible that some of the freed up spectrum could get reserved for something like say- a public WIFI mesh network? I don't think there is any reason to believe the use of the freed spectrum will remain unalterred. There are many interesting things that can be done with such spectrum that furthers social goals held by democrats, and there was much to be learned from mistakes the europeans made with their huge spectrum sell offs.

Also the shift in economics will be more carefully considered. Also let's take note of Scott Atkinson's (manager of news at a local new york OTA station) remarks on the digital transition. It seems to me that local broadcasters of free content are also footing the bill- they will have to pay millions and millions just to get what they provide now. Is this the party that favors snuffing out decentralized grass roots local voices in favor of centralized media voices?

It's natural for them to question who will buy that freed up spectrum and consider the social impact of use of that spectrum. Verizon and the usual suspects are going to buy it and we can already see in their products what they are using it for.

We are watching nothing less than the conversion of spectrum over from free video to pay video. Is that in the public's interest?

And it won't be more efficient either because though it is digital it is now single point PPV and VOD broadcasts rather than broadcast to hundreds of thousands of homes simultaneously.

Hey- but it's digital. Let's see how long this conventional congressional "wisdom" for the last 10 years survives when another party is running the hearings.

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Old 01-11-2007, 03:06 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Justin Thyme
We are watching the conversion of spectrum over from free video to pay video. Is that in the public's interest?
I was amused to find that I'm able to receive over 40 different channels of programming via 8VSB -- all free. Sure, there's stuff in Korean and Spanish I'd never tune to, but it's there for free if I wanted. And if I turned the antenna towards Philadelphia, there's at least a dozen more channels I can receive. Free. (Haven't checked out Philly lately, so it might be more than a dozen).

Now granted, too many (IMO) of those are PBS stations. It seems every NJ PBS station puts out 4 or 5 subchannels, and I can get at least 3 different NJ PBS station broadcasts. But they're there. And free.

The ion (Paxson) station now broadcasts Qubo, a kids channel. The local CW station puts out The Tube, a music channel. It can't be that long before we see some deals in place for some of the common cable channels to experiment with free broadcast in major metro areas... FX, SciFi, USA all seem like prime candidates.
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Old 01-11-2007, 03:34 PM   #21
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No, it sounds great if this materializes for most OTA folks in the country. I too read long ago of the promise of 4 channels for the price of one.

Scott said that the realities are that it was a hustle. Maybe there are different economics at work in megalopolis's like where you live. IF they are mostly PBS stations, maybe not.

You mentioned rotating your antenna to pick up philly. Do you have to be a jock to recieve so many stations, or do you think that normal foks will be able to pick up omnidirectional things from Rat shack and be able to do away with cable?
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Old 01-11-2007, 03:49 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Justin Thyme
Which congress was that? The congress that was going to only honor a fraction of the vouchers on a first come first served basis, or the congress that says that the government is not going to make a 10 billion profit, while the poorest americans are left to pick up the bills for converter boxes?
Yes, that one ...

You see, when the proverbial 'Grandpa J6P' gets his letter from the cable company that they are going 'all digital' soon (before the OTA cut-off of course) and his 1970 Magnavox analog TV might not work anymore to get all the channels he's used to getting ... and that he should get one of these new 'digital' TVs or DVD-Rs or VCR or some other 'digital' tuner ... or else he's going to have to start (gasp) renting a box from the cable company ...

'Grandpa J6P' is just naturally going to go down to Best Buy and pick up a brand spanking new 'digital' TV. He'll be amazed at all the 'digital' OTA stations he gets. He'll tell all his friends to get new 'digital' TVs. He'll be a little peeved at his cable company for breaking his perfectly-functional 1970 Magnavox analog TV but ... so it goes. He won't even notice when the analog stations go dark. Won't dream of blaming Washington for breaking his perfectly-functional 1970 Magnavox analog TV. Certainly won't be needing one of those voucher things.

Oh, and there's some other issues for Washington to address (like digital-must-carry) ... or re-address ... or change ... that are a heck of alot easier if cable companies suddenly have a little bit of space and can't whine and complain about 'lack of bandwidth'.
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Old 01-11-2007, 04:02 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Justin Thyme
You mentioned rotating your antenna to pick up philly. Do you have to be a jock to recieve so many stations, or do you think that normal foks will be able to pick up omnidirectional things from Rat shack and be able to do away with cable?
I have two antennas... a Channel Master 4228 on a rotator in the attic, and a Square Shooter mounted outside, under the eaves. The 4228 is my "exploration" antenna; the Square Shooter is what all my OTA receivers are hooked up to now except for the HDHomeRun.

The Square Shooter is just an 18"x18"x4" antenna that's just mounted on a post screwed onto the eaves of my house. Aimed toward NYC.

The Zenith Silver Sensor and similar indoor antennas are reasonably close to the same performance as the Square Shooter. Of course being inside is a bit of a handicap, but they work for quite a few people.
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Old 01-11-2007, 04:10 PM   #24
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So ... finally having read some of the decisions ...

The 'all digital' thing is interesting.

Ok, so any cable company (Cox, Comcast, Time Warner, etc.) can re-apply for a waiver "based on a commitment to go all-digital by a date-certain such as February 2009 or sooner, when broadcasters will cease their analog operations." BendBroadband is getting their waiver (conditionally) based on their promise to do so. They have to actually commit (submit affidavits and such).

But ... that's one way to get a waiver. Go all-digital.

Is there an end-date on BendBroadband's waiver? Ie, do they get a waiver impertuity ... or for some limited time ... or untill some other even happens? I'll have to look that up.

Will Comcast, Cox, Time Warner take the FCC up on that? Heck, will the small cable companies take the FCC up on that? Interesting ...

As others have noted ... that would seem to potentially 'push' SDV back too. Drop analogs ... frees up lots of space ... no SDV needed (for a while anyway).
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Old 01-11-2007, 04:18 PM   #25
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Anyone have any pointers on the FCC's thinking on SDV?

It seems to me if making it easy for CE devices to plug and play is so important, then allowing companies to move stuff to SDV arbitrarily is a step backwards. Doesn't it just give the CableCo's an easy way to force people to rent STB's again? Imagine a system where the Broadcast Basic channels are digital only, and everything else is SDV. Good bandwidth wise for the CableCo... Not so good for the consumer who wants his devices to be able to access the content directly. Not good for the CE vendors who want to sell those devices.

More $$$ for the CableCo too.

Am I missing something?
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Old 01-11-2007, 04:27 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by dt_dc
You see, when the proverbial 'Grandpa J6P' gets his letter from the cable company that they are going 'all digital' soon (before the OTA cut-off of course) and his 1970 Magnavox analog TV might not work anymore to get all the channels he's used to getting ...
Won't happen for a decade at least according to the Cable companies. For example, though the cable companies can drop analog versions of OTA channels when these broadcasters cease transmission of analog in 2009, the CTO of comcast says:
Quote:
But even there, we will leave a set of analog channels on—I'm just guessing for another five years or so. That's so basic-only subscribers or third or fourth TVs in the home can tune a set of 20 or 30 channels. I think that's in place for another decade. And I think for another five years, 60 or so [analog] channels are in place. source
Personally, I think the FCC was throwing them empty opportunities at a waiver resubmission. Cableco's won't submit for a waiver of "low end" boxes that don't do bi directional, and they aren't going to commit to all digital (meaning no analog) by 2009.

So that leaves the "not the same" Congress (bad bet), or the courts (even worse given the August 2006 ruling in the DC circuit.)

Goody. Looks like we will be getting MCards this time for sure. What a coincidence they will show up in time for the cableco boxes that will need them. Two years late, but who's complaining. No more double charging and all those second card install glitches.
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Old 01-11-2007, 04:31 PM   #27
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When would I support an permanent waiver on the integration ban? When would I support a totally proprietary Conditional Access System?

When the Video Provider provides me with one device that sits where the signal enters my premises, and converts the signals that I'm eligible for into clear unencrypted signals that are compatible (QAM or ATSC) *and free to be used with* any device (subject to the FCC flags already on the content) I can feed the signal into.

There isn't any reason to still charge by the TV set, or the 'outlet'. They provide programming, I watch it. The phone companies haven't charged by the number of phones in my house in about 30 years... Why should the Cable Company?

This would fix any future Switched Digital video rollout too. They can switch only the streams I'm watching to my house, as long as they then send them out on the right channels through my wiring allowing my QAM or ATSC tuners to tune them in.

Digital TV is great. HD TV is even better, but for all those people who invested in CableCARD technology to be left hanging when CableCO's upgrade to SDV is wrong. To force them to rent a STB is wrong.

It seems a CableCompany owned 'Point of Entry Decryption Device' included in the Monthly fee for the whole house could solve all these problems.

The cable company could still offer (probably simpler) STB's for PPV and VOD. When a spec is finalized and Bidirectional CE devices appear, Consumers would still be able to optionally do without those STB's also.

Am I missing something? (Other than the fact that it would loosen the monopolistic grip the CableCo's have on me?)

-Kyle
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Old 01-11-2007, 04:46 PM   #28
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One Pod for the whole family. Oh- you mean like what a Vista media server like a Niveus Rainier would do. And you'll be able to use any format for storage that you want- just so long as it is MSWMV, and the devices you connect to your net support the same.

So it's not like the alternatives are being presented by sweethearts either.
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Old 01-11-2007, 05:02 PM   #29
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Won't happen for a decade at least according to the Cable companies.
Yes ... I know the cable companys' plans. Guess I should have added "that's the theory". Someone once said sarcasm doesn't come accross well in text.

But anyway, obviously the FCC isn't to pleased / thrilled / ecstatic about this long-term-analog-on-cable outlook and are looking for a way to (possibly ... maybe) prod cable into going all digital a little earlier than planned.
Quote:
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Personally, I think the FCC was throwing them empty opportunities at a waiver resubmission. Cableco's won't submit for a waiver of "low end" boxes that don't do bi directional, and they aren't going to commit to all digital (meaning no analog) by 2009.
Perhaps. That was my first reaction too. But ... there's a little more behind the scenes ... we shall see.

My other first reaction was that Kevin Martin didn't get many chances to sit at the cool kids table and seemed to relish a little bit in making the announcement at CES (note: his CES appearance was scheduled fairly recently ... Dec. 8). But anyway ...

As far as all-digital ... BendBroadband said they were planning on going all-digital (not just ADS, but all-digital, no analog) by 2008. That's the condition their waiver was granted on. And their 'all-digital' waiver applies to two-way boxes. All-digital ... keep deploying whatever box you want. I can see BendBroadband / Sunflower and some of the other 'small/nimble' companies (that don't exactly piles of cash lying around like Cox, Comcast, etc) doing it. We shall see ...
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Originally Posted by Justin Thyme
So that leaves the "not the same" Congress (bad bet)
Sununu to the rescue ...
http://www.multichannel.com/article/...=Breaking+News

Ok, perhaps he won't get his bill passed. Should provide an opportunity to get some nice, fat checks from lobbyists though.
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Old 01-11-2007, 06:04 PM   #30
Justin Thyme
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Comcast was saying something like 47 percent of their subs are digital. And since the US statistic is more televisions than people in a household, even in the digital households, there are a lot of sets even in the digital households that are analog.

Are the cableCo's really going to provide that many converter boxes? Just for Comcast case, that is over 10 million boxes and 10 million truck rolls. If the DT700 is $100, it is a billion buck rollout.

That's if they only provide a single replacement box per analog family. That sort of stingey solution is going to leave a LOT of pissed off customers if the cable companies don't provide more boxes. And then the digital folks are going to want low cost boxes for their extra analog sets... That's more truck rolls, more STB capital needed.

Was Bend blowing smoke about banning analog totally? I wonder if Bend really will submit the avadavits / announcements fully expecting it to be a fiasco they can blame on the FCC- so they can weasel out in the face of a consumer backlash that they can fully document to the FCC. That would be a cute strategy.

The big complaint driving this is that a cablecard box cannot be built for under $100. Well duh- the cableco's forced the cablecard solution to require enough processing power to support a Java virtual machine (OCAP). The proprietary under $100 box doesn't have to do OCAP. That was what the CEA was up in arms about in their November filing. Therefore, since proprietary = cheaper, then the cableco is free to make all sorts of economic arguments that cablecard is an unfair government burden.

Funny how that worked out that way.

It is such a charade, yet the FCC lets Bend off the hook "under regulations 1.3 and 74.7." Well- that's the- we-can-waive-anything-we-like-if-we-think-it-is-a-good-idea regulations. None of those regs say anything about an FCC mandate to eradicate all analog encoding of video in the US.

The social good is to free up public airwaves for other purposes, period. Public airwaves. Not what is carried on copper or glass. Verizon is using glass into the house and is providing analog in FIOS homes. They have gobs of bandwidth and they still provided analog.

The FCC has let these guys slide for a decade. It's time to put an end to the games played with the stacked cablecard deck.

Last edited by Justin Thyme : 01-11-2007 at 06:12 PM.
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