CableCard Waivers Granted

3/28/2008 8:00 PM Eastern

Two small operators, Ohio's MassillonCable and Innovation Cable of the U.S. Virgin Islands, have been granted waivers of the Federal Communications Commission's CableCard rules.

That means the operators may legally deploy set-top boxes with integrated security features, rather than the removable CableCards. The FCC issued a rule last July that all set-top boxes be equipped with removable security unless an exemption is granted.

The order follows the lines of one granted already to BendBroadband of Oregon. The operator has vowed to go all-digital before the Feb. 2009 digital transition date, and to give consumers 60 days notice before it does so. Operators must also make sure they have enough digital converters on hand to meet demand when they make the transition.

Operators with the smallest systems have argued against the expense of upgrading small systems to handle the CableCard-capable boxes. Small systems doubt they can recover the costs of investing in plant upgrades, and the boxes themselves are $50 to $93 more expensive that converters with integrated security, according to industry estimates.

Other operators, such as Mediacom Communications, are awaiting action on similar waiver requests.

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