Cisco Updating Tuning Adapter Firmware Just In Time For New FCC Rules

Cisco STA1520

A new raft of FCC regulations, originally published October 14, 2010, go into effect August 1st, 2011. One of those new requirements is that MSOs provide their cable subscribers with tuning adapters that support a minimum of four content streams:

To address the problems with tuning adapters identified by commenters, the satisfactory access standard will require cable operators to ensure that retail devices are able to tune at least as many switched digital channels as that operator’s most sophisticated operator-supplied set-top box or four simultaneous channels, whichever is greater.

Multi-stream CableCARDs (M-Cards) support up to six content streams, but this doesn’t help users of the Ceton InfiniTV 4 Digital Cable Quad-tuner Card or the Moxi 3-Tuner DVR, and it wouldn’t be good news for the pending TiVo Premiere Elite 4-tuner DVR, for users with Switched Digital Video and tuning adapters that limit them to two streams.

You didn’t know? Even though M-Cards support six streams, tuning adapters first shipped with support for only two. A while back Motorola updated their tuning adapter firmware to support six streams, but Cisco has been dragging their feet. But it seems, with just two weeks left before the deadline, their finally rolling out new firmware for their STA1520.

There are more goodies from the FCC:

  • If the MSO allows consumers to self-install anything, such as cable modem or cable box, then they must also allow CableCARD self-installs on 8/1/2011. No more truck rolls! (If they don’t allow any self-installs, they still must begin allowing CableCARD self-installs on 11/1/2011.)
  • MSO’s must provide M-Cards starting 8/1/2011 – they cannot provide S-Cards unless specifically requested.
  • If the cable company is doing the CableCARD install the installer must show up with at least the number of cards in the order, and they must be working cards.
  • The same fee must be charged for a CableCARD whether it is used in a consumer provided host (such as a TiVo) or an MSO provided STB, starting 8/1/2011.

There is more in the FCC document.

Hopefully the new rules will lead to improvements for consumers, and lower costs – no more need to pay for an installer to stick a card in your TiVo and call in the numbers.

Cisco TA Firmware news spotted via EngadgetHD.

About MegaZone

MegaZone is the Editor of Gizmo Lovers and the chief contributor. He's been online since 1989 and active in several generations of 'social media' - mailing lists, USENet groups, web forums, and since 2003, blogging.    MegaZone has a presence on several social platforms: Google+ / Facebook / Twitter / LinkedIn / LiveJournal / Web.    You can also follow Gizmo Lovers on other sites: Blog / Google+ / Facebook / Twitter.
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  • Morac

    I found a loophole in the FCC requirement. Yes, the cable companies must allow self install of the card, but there’s nothing about having to be able to pair it without a truck roll. Considering people are still having problems gettings cards paired over the phone, I don’t see that suddenly magically working in a few weeks.

    • MegaZone

      I don’t know about that.  Pairing is part of the installation process, I don’t think it can legitimately be considered a separate action.  And if the MSOs tried it, the FCC would most likely bring their foot down on their necks.  ’Installation’ is more than just sticking the card in the box.  Just like installing a cable box is more than just connecting the wires.  They couldn’t say they allow self-installs of cable boxes if they still required a truck roll to authorize the box, and I don’t see how they could do that with CableCARDs.

      I agree they could try to use weasel words to interpret the ruling that way, but I think the FCC’s intent is pretty clear and they wouldn’t take kindly to MSOs playing ‘rules lawyer’ and trying to get around the intent by contorting the meaning.  I get the feeling the FCC can be a pretty vengeful GM when the players act like jerks.  (It doesn’t say anywhere in the rule book that grenades can only be used once, so I can keep using the same grenade over and over…)

      As to the problems – oh yeah, I don’t expect this to go smoothly.  MSOs may apply for extensions and waivers if they’re having problems getting the kinks worked out.  We’ll see in the next couple of weeks.  Though I’m betting most of them just do the usual and flip the switch, ready or not, and we end up with a lot of pain for a while as everyone tries to figure out how to make the new system work.

      It really *shouldn’t* be hard.  All the installers generally do is call in the numbers off the card and the host device.  MSOs could just give consumers the same kind of phone access.  But, even better would be web activation because it could check the format of the data and provide pretty pictures of the cards pointing out where the numbers are, etc., to help reduce consumer confusion.

      How this actually plays out is anyone’s guess at this point.

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