It’s Day Two of the CableCard era: Has your quality of life dramatically improved? I thought not, but just because the FCC‘s July 1 deadline has passed for separable security via CableCards in newly deployed set-top boxes, that doesn’t mean cable operators are kicking back on Easy Street.
While consumer electronics manufacturers are, in theory, lathered up over the prospect of selling CableCard-enabled devices in retail stores, the work goes on well past the deadline for cable operators. Comcast‘s Charlie Kennamer and Charter‘s Bob Blackburn provided some of the down-and-dirty details of getting ready for the separable security mandate at Expo last month in this story.
Included in the to-do list were items such as scanning the various codes on the back of the Scientific Atlanta and Motorola set-top boxes into software billing and tracking systems – in order for the boxes and CableCards to go forth as one into consumers’ homes, and also to keep track of the OCAP-capable boxes in order to avoid a repeat performance when OCAP rolls out – as well as binding CableCards to their respective host devices.
"You can’t just look at 7/07 as deploying a host box," said Pragash Pillai, Bresnan‘s vice president, strategic engineering. "For example, there are boxes that have cable modems in them, and boxes that we buy that are OCAP capable. Even though we’re not using those two capabilities right now, we want to make sure that we store them in the billing system once so when we turn on those functions, we don’t have to go around and search where those boxes are.
"You don’t want to be in the position where you deploy all of these boxes, and then when you turn DOCSIS, on you have to go back and figure out how to do that in all of the billing and provisioning systems. It’s a lot of backoffice work to get done before you deploy these boxes." July 1 deadline impacts other areas of operations As of Thursday, Bresnan still did not have a waiver from the FCC on deploying CableCard-enabled set-top boxes in new customers’ homes, but the 7/07 deadline has still impacted other areas of operations.
"We continue to look at where we can scale digital simulcast, but the 7/07 deadline has kind of delayed the deployment because of the cost of the set-top boxes and the significant cost of (upgrading) the headend," Pillai said. "One of the benefits of simulcast for us is reducing the cost of set-top boxes; right now, we don’t have our waiver, so we’re not going to see that. If you look at the low-end digital set-top boxes, the price is three times what we’ve been paying for the (Motorola) DCT700."
Bresnan is using the all-digital version of the DCT700, as well as DVR boxes from Motorola and Pace at some point.
Comcast’s Kennamer and Charter’s Blackburn both said during the Expo session that their companies’ goals included minimizing operation and customer impact during the transition to the CableCard set-top boxes, but as Kennamer pointed out, "It’s not possible to do this without it having some impact."
"Looking at everything that is going on, there’s been a lot of focus on meeting the 7/07 deadline. A lot of people have been putting a lot of energy toward that," Pillai said. "After everyone makes sure that goes smoothly, I think you’re going to see more new things get deployed in the fourth quarter." – Mike Robuck