June 26, 2009
Telecommunications Alerts

FCC Overrules Own Enforcement Action Against Switched Digital Video

Under newly installed leadership, the Federal Communications Commission swiftly reversed a seemingly politically-motivated, legally dubious Enforcement Bureau order of violation and forfeiture against major cable operators Cox Communications and Time Warner Cable due to their deployment of switched digital video (SDV) technology to deliver programming previously delivered in another format.  The defendant cable operators persuaded the Commission that SDV technology is pro-competitive and pro-consumer, allowing all customers to benefit from expanded program offerings, introduction of high-definition (HD) programming, and faster broadband service.  The FCC Enforcement Bureau had initially found that migrating customers to the SDV platform violated 30-day notice requirements for changes in service, as well as FCC rules concerning disablement of navigation devices.  A limited number of customers with older television equipment experienced problems with their TiVo devices or had to obtain a new set-top box to receive their channels.  On reconsideration, the full Commission has now reversed the Enforcement Bureau and found that migration of customers to SDV is not a violation of FCC rules, and in fact serves important public policy.  However, it may be considered a "service change" requiring 30-day advance notice to franchise authorities and subscribers.  (Order on Review, FCC 90‑52, June 26, 2009)
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