Ars reports that the FCC has bitch slapped cable companies that adopted the new switched digital video (SDV) CableCard protocol because, as we discussed in the spring, it totally left TiVo owners hanging. Cable companies say they should be free to do whatever they want with hardware; the FCC says, well, you still need to support companies that bend over backward to adopt to your existing technologies. If you recall, the SDV switch jacked Time Warner, Cablevision and Cox customers out of channels if they had CableCard sets or boxes that couldn't be updated. A dongle was promised, but it's taken it's sweet time making its way to the market, in part because it needs to pass CableLabs testing. Well, the argument that CableLabs kept making didn't seem to work with the FCC, who said this specifically in the Cox fine:
Taken to its logical conclusion, Cox's reasoning would permit an MVPD [cable operator] to move all of its programming to an SDV platform without regard for the impact its actions would have on customers using or wishing to use CableCARD-equipped UDCPs [one-way devices]. Such an outcome would be fundamentally at odds with the Commission's goal of protecting cable subscribers' ability to view signals through the use of commercially available navigation devices offered in a competitive market.
The fines, levied against Time Warner and Cox (no mention of Cablevision), were mere slaps on the wrist—$60,000 a piece, pertaining to just three markets where formal complaints were brought up. But it's good to know that the FCC isn't the lapdog of the cable biz, especially when we hardware junkies want more out of our TVs than what the cable co's box alone can deliver. [Ars Technica] Update: According to the unofficial TiVo Blog, Time Warner sent a note that 34 "lesser viewed" channels—including BBC America and Universal HD, among other nerd favorites—would no longer be viewable without the TiVo dongle, which would be available "later this year." So they are firm on when they will cut off their poor subscribers, but not so firm on when a return to service will come, and at what cost. Real cool, TWC—you deserve more than a $60K fine for this chicanery. [TiVoBlog]