Just hours after FCC chmn Kevin Martin told a CES crowd that Comcast‘s request for a waiver of the set-top integration ban should be denied, the FCC’s Media Bureau did just that. "It’s time for us to move forward, and to say no to some of the larger operators asking for further delay without date certain," Martin said to the CES audience. Shortly thereafter, the Media Bureau denied Comcast’s request to have certain low-end digital boxes waived from the rule requiring cable ops to offer separable security after July 1. The Bureau said that Comcast’s request, if granted, would have exempted a vast majority of set-top boxes being placed into service today and in the future. It also said Comcast failed to demonstrate that the waiver would have a direct and immediate impact on its migration to an all-digital network. Comcast said it will appeal to the full Commission. "We are very disappointed in this regrettable FCC Media Bureau decision," said Comcast evp David Cohen. " This amounts to an FCC tax of hundreds of millions of dollars on consumers with no countervailing benefits." Don’t be surprised if the country’s largest MSO also seeks govt intervention, with outgoing Sen and House Commerce chmn Ted Stevens (R-AK) and Joe Barton (R-TX) appearing possibly sympathetic. Not everyone received bad news. The Bureau granted Cablevision‘s request for a waiver. The MSO’s digital set-tops already provide separable security, though not through a CableCARD. "We appreciate the chmn’s positive response to Cablevision’s request and believe this action is in the interest of all Cablevision customers," the MSO said. BendBroadband‘s waiver also got a greenlight, on the condition it migrate to an all-digital network by ’08. The Bureau specifically noted the difficulties that small cable operators may face with the July 1 rule, saying it would defer enforcement of the deadline for small ops who can demonstrate that they have placed orders for set-top boxes that comply but that their orders will not be fulfilled in time for them to comply with the deadline. Martin’s also in favor of waivers for ops who will go all-digital before the Feb ’09 DTV transition. Also getting good news is the trio of cable vets behind Beyond Broadband Technology. The Bureau noted that all cable ops may deploy a downloadable conditional access security solution to comply with rules, such as the one their company has created (Cfax, 12/22). Martin said that keeping the ban in place would foster competition and advancements in the consumer electronics market, and he’d like to see system-neutral boxes on store shelves by 4Q ’08.

The Daily


Observers Keep Close Tabs on FCC’s 3.45GHz Auction

Things were looking a bit better Friday for the FCC’s 3.45GHz auction. Round 28 closed with gross proceeds of more than $6.5 billion.

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