CEA Complains to FCC About CableLabs Licensing

The Consumer Electronics Association has a beef with CableLabs, saying the cable industry consortium is exceeding its licensing authority on key technologies in order to promote cable’s own commercial interests while stifling innovation and consumer choice.

CEA President and CEO Gary Shapiro and others met March 5 with FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin, his senior legal counsel and the head of the FCC Media Bureau to discuss the failure of Cable Labs to offer licenses to consumer electronics makers in compliance with FCC regulations, according to a filing about the meeting. CEA urged the FCC to approve new licensing agreements CEA proposed back in August.

Those proposed revisions concerned three license agreements: The DFAST (Dynamic Feedback Arrangement Scrambling Technique) agreement, with a proposed revision to enable devices to handle switched digital video; CHILA, the CableCard-Host Interface License Agreement; and the OpenCable Application Platform (OCAP) Implementer License Agreement (O-ILA).

CEA says that CableLabs current licensing regime restricts manufacturers from making additions of even minimal, needed improvements in cable products. CEA says the CableLabs strategy ensures no competitive product can ever be better than a cable-supplied product.

The licensing agreements are part of the commission’s drive to ultimately enable retail availability of cable-ready products such as advanced set-top boxes that can be used across different cable systems.

“CEA has noted throughout the current rulemaking that its members seek the competitive opportunity to deploy products, including OCAP-reliant products, that offer consumers real choices as to devices as well as programming,” CEA lawyer Julie M. Kearney wrote the commission. “This is possible only in an environment in which device design freedom is not hindered by a licensing straightjacket.”