The cable industries' Big Six told the FCC Monday they are making a good-faith effort to deploy cards that will allow subscribers to bypass cable set-top boxes, but that there are challenges, including problems with cards that did not receive all the channels and ones that did not receive any channels at all.
The cards plug directly into DTV sets, allowing for digital cable reception without renting a set-top box from the operator.
The operators say some of the problem is with the number of different "host" devices (DTV sets) that the cards must work "seamlessly" with. Apparently, the cards aren't working seamlessly with all sets given the hundreds of anecdotal reports of problems cited in the companies' reports.
The reports were collectively filed by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.
So far, the six MSOs have supplied 60,000 cards to their subscribers.
The obligation to create competition to cable-supplied set-tops was imposed on the FCC by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which required cable to make their systems interoperable with navigational devices supplied by third parties.
The FCC imposed a ban on dual-use boxes as a way to create a competitive retail market for DTV set-tops rather than continue subscribers' reliance on cable-supplied boxes. The new deadline for status reports was required after the FCC in March 2005 delayed that ban on all-in-one security/navigation devices by a year, to July 2007.
Starting Oct. 1, Comcast, Time Warner, Cox, Charter, Adelphia and Cablevision were required to file status reports every 90 days on the availability and deployment efforts of the card that will allow subscribers to activate set-top boxes from retail outlets using a coded CableCARD. The card, provided by the local operator, will allow access to programming.
The consumer electronics industry must also report in on its progress.
The postponement was the second time the deadline had been delayed. The purpose of the latest delay was to give operators time to produce downloadable security software that would work with the retail boxes.