NCTA Conditionally Supports TiVo Analog Tuner Waiver Request

Publish date:

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association supported TiVo's waiver request of FCC rules requiring cable-ready devices to have an analog tuner, but only as long as consumers are notified that a digital-only DVR will not work in all cable systems.

In its June 23 waiver request, TiVo said it wants to introduce Premiere Elite -- a retail version of the four-tuner Premiere Q for cable partners launched last month -- but that the requirement to include an analog tuner would increase the cost of the DVR to consumers by $80 to $100, use one-third more power and increase the device's size. TiVo's waiver request is available here.

The analog tuning requirement "made sense when it was proposed and adopted years ago, but today it threatens to stifle innovation in the navigation devices market," TiVo said.

NCTA, in comments filed Monday, said TiVo's petition was "crafted after consultation with the cable industry on how best to bring an innovative product to market when Commission rules, written for a different time, forbid it."

While NCTA generally supports the TiVo waiver request, it noted that many cable systems today continue to carry substantial numbers of channels only in analog. As such, the cable trade group recommended that consumer education measures include notifying customers that their DVR might not receive all channels if they move to another cable system.

TiVo proposed using marketing, training and some limited return policies to direct sales to consumers who are informed that the device does not support any analog channels and is intended only for use on all-digital or digital simulcast systems. In addition to that, NCTA said, "We recommend that those point-of-sale consumer education efforts also make clear that if the consumer moves to another system with analog channels, the device would no longer tune all one-way channels. These educational messages should be made conditions of the waiver."

NCTA added that the FCC also should make clear that a waiver and the availability of limited functionality digital-only devices at retail does not create any requirement or expectation for cable operators who carry analog services to change their networks, services, or prices to meet the digital-only receiver constraints of this device.

NCTA noted the analog requirement is similar to the "plug and play" requirement that HD set-tops include a 1394 (FireWire) output.

"Technological innovation is often marked by multiple, market-driven approaches that should not be constrained by ‘one size fits all' regulations written for an earlier time," NCTA said in its comments. "In short, we agree with TiVo that the analog tuning ‘requirement made sense when it was proposed and adopted years ago, but today it threatens to stifle innovation in the navigation devices market....' The same can be said for a number of navigation device requirements imposed years ago."