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Ops Miss Deadline

Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cox Communications did not have Tru2way interactive-services technology enabled across their entire footprints by July 1, as they had pledged in agreements with consumer-electronics companies last year.

But executives from two CE manufacturers, Samsung Electronics and Panasonic, said the biggest cable operators have made good-faith efforts to date on deploying the technology and they expect additional Tru2way markets launched soon.

“I can't say I'm happy about the results — we would have liked for things to happen more quickly — but we have to be realistic about the complexity of this project,” said Panasonic vice president of strategic alliances Jeff Cove. “My sense is the cable companies are trying to meet the deadlines.”

Added Stephen Goldstein, Samsung's director of business development and marketing: “This is difficult technology. It's not for lack of trying … I think things are going as well as they could be with OCAP [the OpenCable Application Platform] and Tru2way.”

Tru2way, based on the Java programming language, lets cable operators deliver interactive-TV applications to any compatible device, such as a set-top box or TV.

Five of the six biggest U.S. MSOs — Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox, Cablevision Systems and Bright House Networks — committed to the July 1, 2009, deadline in pacts with major consumer-electronics companies signed last summer. Charter Communications had agreed to support Tru2way by July 2010. The deal effectively resolved cable's disagreement with CE companies about how operators will provide access to two-way cable services.

Cable executives said there was now a spirit of cooperation between the two industries, whereas in the past their negotiations have been confrontational.

“I'm pleased that we've reached a point where instead of firing bullets at each other, we've got our business and technical people talking to each other now instead of us lawyers,” said National Cable & Telecommunications Association general counsel Neil Goldberg.

The agreements reached among the MSOs and CE companies don't include specific penalties for missing the deadline, according to Goldberg.

While Comcast didn't make the July 1 deadline, “the primary thing that has happened is, we've moved from opposite sides of the table to the same side of the table with the CE companies,” said Comcast senior vice president of strategic planning Mark Coblitz. “This was a private agreement, so it's businesspeople working with each other to get this done.”

Coblitz said Comcast doesn't have an end date for when it will have 100% of its headends enabled for Tru2way-based retail devices but said “it won't be in the too-distant future.”

Time Warner Cable also missed the deadline “but we've told our partners we're committed to Tru2way, and we're close to trials,” spokesman Alex Dudley said. He noted that TWC has already deployed more than 2 million Tru2way-based boxes in the field.

For its part, Cox said it was performing “readiness testing in all of our locations” for Tru2way devices” and was “working closely with consumer-electronics manufacturers to enable full Tru2way functionality on our cable platform with the hope of full-readiness by the end of the year.”

Cablevision and Bright House representatives did not respond to requests for comment.

The Consumer Electronics Association, which has continuously lobbied the Federal Communications Commission to implement rules requiring cable to provide open access of its services to retail devices, declined to comment on the Tru2way deadline.