Charter Seeks FCC Waiver to Help in Its Digital Transition

MSO Asks for Two-Year Waiver of Ban on Integrated Set-Tops

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 networks.

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.