FCC fines Time Warner Cable, Cox

Fri, 10/17/2008 - 8:50am
Mike Robuck

On Wednesday, the Federal Communications Commission levied fines against Time Warner Cable and Cox Communications because some of their subscribers were not able to access channels that had been moved to switched digital video (SDV) groups.

With switched digital video, cable operators are able to send just the digital signals that are being watched in a service group or node instead of the entire lineup of channels. Cable operators use this reclaimed bandwidth for more HD channels or other services.

In order to receive SDV channels, customers need a two-way-enabled device that knows the SDV protocols, but some DVRs, such as TiVo models, are unable to access the switched channels.

While CableLabs is working with the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA), TiVo and other consumer electronics manufacturers on an adapter that would process the SDV channels (story here), the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau fined Time Warner Cable $40,000 for two complaints in its Hawaii division. Cox was fined $20,000 for one complaint in Virginia.

Cox issued the following statement to CED late this morning: “Cox disagrees with the FCC’s ruling and will defend our use of switched-digital technology in responding to the Notice of Apparent Liability. Our deployment of switched digital to maximize the power of our broadband network has greatly benefited our northern Virginia customers, where we've introduced more than 50 new channels – including 24 high-definition offerings – enabled by this technology.”

The FCC’s order said that customers who use cable-ready televisions or digital video recorders in place of cable company-provided set-top boxes were blocked from viewing certain channels after the companies moved those channels into SDV groups in order to reclaim bandwidth.

The FCC had ordered Time Warner Cable and Cox to provide customers with refunds for the channels they didn’t receive.

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