Charter Seeks FCC Waiver to Help in Its Digital Transition

Asks for two-year waiver of ban on integrated set tops

Top 10 cable operator 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

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.