July 1 is quickly approaching, but action from the FCC on set-top integration ban waiver requests is moving as fast as Washingtonians are lining up to go on hunting trips with Dick Cheney. Meanwhile, a new waiver petition is filed nearly every week. This chart shows how many companies have filed waiver requests as of April 9, and the length of time they’ve been pending at the FCC.

The lowdown is that multichannel video providers can only deploy set-tops with separable or downloadable security after July 1. Several operators are seeking to have certain low-end boxes waived from the rule. Others, including NCTA, want the entire ban postponed. The Consumer Electronics Association is against delays or exemptions because it sees the ban as a way to get more CableCARD-enabled devices into the marketplace, spurring more competition for cable set-tops.

Cable operators maintain that the FCC must act on these waiver petitions within 90 days, pointing to a federal statute. At our deadline, only one company — Cablevision — had its waiver request acted on in fewer than 90 days. Ironically, the FCC recently established a 90-day time frame for local franchise authorities to act on telephone companies’ video franchise applications.

While only three rulings had been issued at our deadline, they shed some light on which way the FCC is leaning. Cable operators that commit to going all-digital before 2009 look most likely to get a waiver. Operators both small and large say this requirement goes against the FCC’s guidelines for granting waivers, and have warned repeatedly that maintaining the ban will force consumers to pay for useless technology. One of cable’s disappointments so far is that the orders have all come from the FCC’s Media Bureau instead of the full commission. Comcast has asked that the five commissioners review its denied application from the Media Bureau.

The Big Wait

Set-Top Box Waiver Requests: Status Report
Waiver Applicant Date of Filing Date of Bureau Decision Days Elapsed as of 4/9/06
Source: CableWorld research and Comcast FCC filing. Waiver requests as of April 9, 2007.
Comcast 4/19/06 1/10/07 – Denial 266
Charter 7/14/06 No decision yet. 269
Verizon 8/8/06 No decision yet. 244
NCTA 8/16/06 No decision yet. 236
BendBroadband 10/4/06 1/10/07 -Conditional grant 98
Armstrong Utilities 11/6/06 No decision yet. 154
Sunflower Broadband 11/20/06 No decision yet. 140
Cablevision 11/27/06 1/10/07 -Grant for 2 years 44
RCN 12/5/06 No decision yet. 125
Suddenlink 12/5/06 No decision yet. 125
City of San Bruno 12/14/06 No decision yet. 116
NPG Cable 12/14/06 No decision yet. 116
Bresnan 12/19/06 No decision yet. 111
Atlantic Broadband 12/27/06 No decision yet. 103
Orange Broadband 12/27/06 No decision yet. 103
Qwest 2/12/07 No decision yet. 56
Liberty Cablevision of Puerto Rico 2/14/07 No decision yet. 54
GCI Cable 2/16/07 No decision yet. 52
JetBroadband 2/22/07 No decision yet. 46
WideOpenWest 2/28/07 No decision yet. 40
Kalona 3/1/07 No decision yet. 39
Millennium 3/1/07 No decision yet. 39
Mahaska 3/5/07 No decision yet. 35
Winnebago 3/5/07 No decision yet. 35
City of Tacoma 3/7/07 No decision yet. 33
CenturyTel 3/9/07 No decision yet. 31
C&CC/Mid-Rivers Coop. 3/12/07 No decision yet. 29
CTC 3/22/07 No decision yet. 18
En-Touch 3/28/07 No decision yet. 12
Knology 4/2/07 No decision yet. 7
Rural ATM Digital
Video Providers Group
4/2/07 No decision yet. 7

The Daily

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