AT&T: No Need for FCC Set-Top Waiver

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AT&T didn’t seek a set-top-box waiver from the Federal Communications Commission because the company claimed that its Internet-protocol video-delivery technology isn’t covered by the law that forced traditional cable operators to discontinue deployment of integrated set-top boxes July 1.

AT&T spokesman Mike Balmoris said that because the company’s U-verse TV pay TV service didn’t use cable set-tops that contained both channel surfing and signal security features, it didn’t need a waiver.

“The intelligence that this ban is seeking to separate doesn’t reside in our set-top box. It’s in our network,” Balmoris said. “We beam one channel at a time into your home, like when you download a Web page.”

On July 1, the FCC barred cable companies without legal waivers from issuing integrated set-top boxes. Going forward, they need to deploy boxes that rely on CableCARDs as their anti-signal-theft technology.

The FCC granted dozens of waivers June 29, especially to providers that promised to be all-digital by Feb. 17, 2009. Verizon Communications received a waiver for low-end, two-way boxes until Dec. 31, 2009, and for high-end HD/digital-video-recorder boxes until July 1, 2008.

The FCC said the high-end waiver was necessary because CableCARD-enabled boxes haven’t been made for video operators that rely on IP technology.

Since AT&T U-verse is an IP-based system, it also was covered by the FCC’s June 29 order, Balmoris added.

“It’s not just AT&T U-verse: It’s all IP video, which includes, of course, AT&T. We are not the only IP [provider],” Balmoris said.

FCC spokeswoman Mary Diamond said the FCC didn’t issue AT&T a waiver. “You need to request a waiver to be granted a waiver,” she added.

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