NCTA is blasting the FCC’s Media Bureau, likening it to a same-day dry cleaner in its handling of Verizon’s set-top integration ban waiver. NCTA’s protest, which comes in comments opposing further FCC relief for just Verizon, argues that the Commission failed to treat like services alike. Verizon got a waiver in late June that allows it to continue deploying integrated, low-end set-tops based on the telco’s commitment to transition to an all-digital network by Feb 17, ’09. "This waiver might be referred to as a ‘dry-cleaner special’: it was based on an ex parte letter filed with the Commission on the same day as it received its waiver grant," NCTA said. "This ‘in by 9, out by 5’ one-day special treatment of Verizon by the Bureau stands in stark and regrettable contrast to the Bureau’s consideration of waivers by other cable operators… particularly, NCTA’s waiver request, which was acted on by the Bureau more than 300 days after filing." Under FCC rules, cable operators without waivers had to stop deploying new set-top boxes without CableCARDs as of Jul 1. Some exemptions were made, particularly if an operator agreed to go all-digital before the DTV transition. The Bureau rejected NCTA’s request to extend the July deadline until 2010 or until Downloadable Conditional Access Security is available (whichever comes first). NCTA wants full FCC review of the decision. In FCC comments filed late Tues, the cable group repeatedly slammed the Bureau for treating Verizon differently. In addition to the box waiver, the Bureau granted Verizon a waiver allowing it to keep deploying HD and DVR boxes without CableCARDS until July 1, ’08. That decision was based on the Bureau’s understanding that vendors haven’t created integrated HD/DVR devices for use with Verizon’s network. The telco now wants the 1-year waiver extended for 3 years, noting the "enormous resources" it would take to develop an interim solution that would only be replaced by DCAS once it’s available (Cfax, 8/1). But said NCTA: "There is no rational basis upon which the Commission should grant Verizon greater relief than it is willing to provide any other cable operator." NCTA also noted that the FCC awarded Verizon a waiver even though, unlike cable operators, it failed to order CableCARD-enabled boxes from vendors before the Jul 1 ban. Verizon’s claim that it doesn’t have access to the boxes "rests on the preposterous assumption that Verizon’s equipment vendors act as an independent force in the universe, uninfluenced by the needs and requests of the nation’s 2nd largest telecommunications entity," NCTA said.