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FCC issues rules on DTV set labeling The FCC recently adopted rules for the labeling of digital television (DTV) receivers to ensure consumers will be informed about the capabilities of digital TV receivers to operate with cable television systems.

In the Report and Order, the Commission issued specifications for three categories of DTV receivers.

The first is Digital Cable Ready 1, a consumer TV capable of receiving analog basic, digital basic and digital premium cable television programming by direct connection to a cable system providing digital programming. A security card or Point of Deployment (POD) module provided by the cable operator is required to view encrypted programming. There is no 1394 digital connector or other digital interface. This device does not have two-way capability using cable facilities.

The second is Digital Cable Ready 2, a consumer TV receiving device that in addition to the features of the Digital Cable Ready 1 sets also includes the 1394 digital interface connector that may be used for attaching the receiving device to various other consumer appliances. Connection of a Digital Cable Ready 2 receiver to a digital STB may support advanced and interactive digital services and programming delivered by the cable system to the set-top box.

The final label is Digital Cable Ready 3, a consumer TV receiving device that in addition to the features of the Digital Cable Ready 1 sets is capable of receiving advanced and interactive digital services by direct connection to a cable system. The Commission notes design specifications still need to be determined for this category. Because of this, the FCC will keep the record open in this proceeding, giving them the option of incorporating these specifications into its rules at a later date. The FCC also requires the cable and consumer electronic industries to report to the Commission on the continuing development of technical standards for the Digital Cable Ready 3 receivers.

The Commission's reporting requirements are supposedly consolidated into a single reporting timetable which, beginning Oct. 31, 2000, is required every six months thereafter until October 2002.

Copy protection This labeling issue also briefly touches on another difficult issue: copy protection. This issue was raised in the labeling Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, but it relates only to navigation device rules. In response to this issue, the FCC said, "For that reason, the copy protection licensing issue is incorporated in the Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Memorandum Opinion and Order/Declaratory Ruling in the navigation devices docket." This decision also states that the navigation device rules permit some amount of copy protection to be included in commercially available navigation devices.

It is also interesting to note that no mention was made of USB ports on digital TVs in the FCC Release, in spite of some recent talk about the possible demise of Firewire.

The use of the phrase "digital television receivers" in the FCC release is confusing in that no mention is made of displays. This whole approach tends to blur the line between receivers, set-top boxes and the actual display device.

CEA response Consumer Electronics Association President and CEO Gary Shapiro responded to the FCC announcement of a labeling system by saying, "While we would have preferred a multi-industry consensus on this issue, and are uncomfortable with a federal agency mandating labels for our products, we recognize that the Commission had a mandate to establish clear labels to minimize consumer confusion."

With respect to the copyright issues raised by the FCC and the proposed ruling in its cable navigation devices proceeding, Shapiro said, "We are pleased that the Commission in its actions appears to recognize that consumers maintain reasonable home recording rights in the digital age. We maintain, however, that the FCC has no legal authority to grant CableLabs permission to mandate copy protection schemes in the Dynamic Feedback Arrangement Scrambling Technique (DFAST) license.

"We hope that the Commission's actions in this area will not limit the usual and customary home recording rights of consumers," Shapiro said.