I’ve been pretty busy, so I didn’t have time to cover this when the news broke last week via Multichannel News, but the FCC has fined Time Warner Cable and Cox Communications over their implementation of SDV. Well, more specifically, because their implementation of Switched Digital Video denied users of CableCARD access to content. The FCC’s rule requires providers to make all video programming available to third-party consumer electronics devices, like TiVo, which use CableCARD. As SDV has not been compatible with CableCARD, until the recent initial deployment of the Tuning Adapter, the FCC found that moving channels to SDV was a willful violation of the rules.
As a result Time Warner Cable Oceanic of Oahu and Kauai, HI and Cox in Fairfax County, VA were fined $40,000 and $20,000, respectively. I don’t think this is really going to change anything in the big picture. Cable MSOs aren’t going to back away from SDV, they’re not going to stop deploying it, let alone roll back existing deployments. Perhaps it may spur a quicker pace to Tuning Adapter deployments, but as those deployments, or plans for deployment, are already underway I suspect there won’t be any real world impact.
So the end result is maybe a little karmic payback for MSOs who rushed out SDV without consideration for the FCCs rules or their CableCARD users, and perhaps next time around they’ll give it more consideration. But even that would depend on the FCC levying fines in more territories, in my opinion. The current fines are just too small to have any real impact on the MSOs, the FCC needs to slap the MSOs for all the territories in which they deployed SDV before making Tuning Adapters available.
It does make me wonder, since Tuning Adapters don’t work with all CableCARD UDCP devices (either because they lack a USB port or the firmware to support a TA), is simply offering the TA enough to be compliant with the requirement to provide video to CableCARD devices? Personally I think the effort is there and it should be, it is up to CableCARD device makers to support the TA. Yes, it does mean some early adopters are out of luck, but with CableCARD in use in a very small number of 3rd party devices overall, and many of them capable of supporting a TA (like TiVo), it isn’t going to be a large number of users who are affected.
So, in the end, I don’t think these fines will really change anything, certainly not for end users today.