It feels a bit like a fire sale in Kansas these days. Having been ordered by the FCC to stop deploying set-tops with integrated security by Sept 1, Sunflower Broadband has declared that ‘everything must go.’ Late last month, it launched the "Great Digital Set-top Box Giveaway"—offering customers free digital boxes through Aug 31. How successful has it been? In the past 5 weeks, Sunflower has deployed 10K digital boxes, according to gm Patrick Knorr. By comparison, the operator deployed 6K boxes last year and 10K boxes from ’99-’03, he said. Sunflower was among the 9 ops, including Bresnan and Armstrong, that were denied waivers for the July 1 set-top integration ban but were given until Sept 1 to come into compliance. Knorr said the operator had asked the FCC for a waiver, saying it wanted to maximize digital penetration while providing a handful of channels on analog simulcast for elderly subs unwilling to get a box, or for 3rd and 4th sets in the home. "Functionally, we were planning on a digital set-top in every home," he said. But the FCC Media Bureau said that wasn’t enough for a waiver, so Knorr and his team have been working to get the boxes out of inventory. He said the boxes are free, and will not incur a monthly set-top charge. The cost of the boxes is included in the cost of expanded basic, which now includes some channels that are only available on digital (such as ESPN Classic and Lifetime Movie Net). Sunflower’s vast inventory of integrated boxes has been pretty much depleted, with the operator now relying on the previously deployed boxes from college students and others, said Knorr, who is also chmn of ACA. Integrated boxes deployed before Sept 1 can be re-deployed when they re-enter inventory. "I agree in principle with the idea of standardizing consumer equipment, but I think this is an atrociously executed plan of the FCC," Knorr said, noting that the 2 industries that require consumer equipment—satellite and cellular—aren’t subject to the same compatibility requirements. Other ops Cfax contacted, including Suddenlink and Bresnan, said they aren’t running similar promotions. "We’re aggressively managing our inventory so that we have as few orphaned boxes as possible," said a Bresnan rep.

The Daily


FCC Adds More Safeguards to RDOF

The FCC authorized more than $1.2 billion through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund for deployments in 32 states Friday, but those dollars have some strings attached. The Commission has also created the Rural

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