Choice Cable T.V. Seeks Set-Top Waiver Extension

Choice Cable T.V., a small cable operator that serves mostly rural portions of Puerto Rico, has asked the FCC to grant it an extension to a waiver that would allow the operator to deploy set-tops with integrated security well beyond August 25, 2014, when its current waiver is set to expire.

Choice Cable, which filed its request on March 20, is operating under a waiver that sidesteps the FCC’s ban on integrated security set-tops that took effect in July 2007. Save for a blanket waiver on simple one-way Digital Transport Adapters, most operators that are subject to the ban are deploying digital boxes paired with removable CableCARD security modules. Last fall, Rep. Robert Latta (R-Ohio) and Rep. Gene Green (D-TX)  introduced legislation that aims to end FCC mandate.

Choice Cable is seeking an extension of “at least” three years in part because it has seen little demand in its “very low-income markets” for more expensive retail navigation devices that use CableCARDs, noting that the median household income in its systems is about $16,000.

The MSO added that it and consumers in its systems are likewise reluctant to buy new, expensive boxes due to “frequent damage” caused by power surges.

“As a result of  these very different conditions, Choice had decided not to purchase any  CableCARD HD or DVR devices, and thus became unable to offer HD or DVRs to additional customers without a waiver from the integration ban,” the MSO said.

The operator said the capital saved has enabled it to invest in its plant and to increase its standard broadband tier to 20 Mbps downstream.

Choice Cable noted that it does provide support for the limited number of retail devices with CableCARDs that do enter its market, and offers a free self-installation option to those customers.

The operator estimated that 0.05% of its customers elected to use retail CableCARD devices, adding that the market continues to develop other pay-TV alternatives that allow consumers to watch video programming on devices of their choice without set-tops or CableCARDs.