FCC Puts Time Warner Cable, Cox Customer Refunds On Hold

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The Federal Communications Commission's Enforcement Bureau this week stayed the date Time Warner Cable and Cox Communications must pay refunds to CableCard subscribers who lost access to switched digital video channels in 2007, pending the outcome of the companies' petition for reconsideration of the order.

The bureau this January issued orders fining Time Warner Cable and Cox for moving some channels from their broadcast lineups to switched digital video, which made that programming inaccessible to CableCard-based devices like TiVo DVRs.

The orders covered Time Warner Cable Oceanic's Oahu and Kauai systems and Cox's Fairfax County, Va., system. The Enforcement Bureau levied $20,000 fines on each system; both Cox and TWC on Feb. 18 filed petitions for reconsideration of the forfeiture orders.

The bureau originally ordered TWC and Cox to issue refunds to CableCard customers within 90 days of the forfeiture order. However, to "fully consider the merits of the petitions for reconsideration, we are staying indefinitely the effective date of the refund requirements set forth in the forfeiture orders," the bureau said in the April 14 order, which is accessible here.

The refunds for affected CableCard customers, as ordered by the FCC's Enforcement Bureau, are either (a) for customers who opted for a leased set-top, the difference in cost between the charges for a leased set-top and the CableCard previously leased by such customers; or (b) for subscribers who did not want a leased set-top, the customers' fees based on "the diminished value of their service following the movement of linear programming to an SDV platform by $0.10 per month, per channel moved."

CableLabs and its members cable operators have worked with TiVo and other manufacturers to develop simple adapters that would allow unidirectional CableCard-based DVRs and TV sets to access switched digital video programming.

Time Warner Cable and other MSOs have been distributing these to customers with CableCards in systems with switched digital video.

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