Charter Seeks FCC Waiver to Help in Its Digital Transition

Top 10 cable operator Charter Communications has asked the
FCC for a two-year waiver of its prohibition on integrated set-tops, saying the
waiver is necessary for the company to make the transition to all-digital

The FCC granted a similar waiver to Cablevision and has
taken steps to promote the transition to all-digital cable, which frees up
bandwidth for broadband, including lifting its ban on encryption of the digital
basic tier.

Charter said it plans to deploy boxes with a chip that would
eventually be used for non-integrated downloadable security and one for
traditional integrated security, said the FCC, to be used during the two-year
transition period to downloadable security.

The FCC back in 2007 instituted the prohibition on set-tops
that combine channel surfing with security. Cable ops were required to use a removable
CableCARD security add-on, a move the FCC hoped would promote a retail market
in boxes, though it conceded a downloadable software security option would be
preferable to the hardware.

Charter points out that it has 2.75 million CableCARD
set-tops deployed, so it has an incentive to continue to make sure its system
works with the relative few CableCARDS -- 33,000 -- it says have been requested
by customers for their retail boxes (the FCC has conceded that the prohibition
has not led to a booming retail box market).

The commission has set a Nov. 30 deadline for comment on
Charter's request and a Dec. 10 deadline for replies.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.