CEA Offers CableCARD Compromise

The Consumer Electronics Association filed a proposal with the FCC to get past the cable industry's resistance to the so-called "integration ban." The ban, set to go into effect July 1, 2007, would force cable operators to remove the encryption function from set-top boxes, so regular retail outfits could sell them. The
Author:
Publish date:
Social count:
0

The Consumer Electronics Association filed a proposal with the FCC to get past the cable industry's resistance to the so-called "integration ban." The ban, set to go into effect July 1, 2007, would force cable operators to remove the encryption function from set-top boxes, so regular retail outfits could sell them. The encryption would reside in a CableCARD, a small device supplied by the cable operator that would plug into the retail set-top or TV equipped with a card slot.

Cable operators have managed to delay the integration ban for nearly a decade. They continue to seek extensions, hoping to transition to downloadable security to skip the whole CableCARD step. In the meantime, consumer electronics makers are getting impatient.

CEA, in its filing with the FCC, asked that manufacturers be allowed some flexibility in building lower-end interactive set-top boxes.

"To date, it appears that cable providers do not intend to use the OpenCable Application Platform middleware software in their so-called 'low-cost, low capability' boxes," the CEA filing stated. "We thus propose that competitive manufacturers have the option, but not the obligation, to include OCAP in devices that access 'basic' interactive services," such as an electronic program guide, video-on-demand and impulse pay-per-view, "and must implement OCAP" for things like online gaming and e-mail.

"Rather than absorbing all the cost and uncertainty associated with OCAP," it said, "competitive manufacturers would be permitted to offer functionally equivalent bi-directional products that build on existing digital cable compatibility technologies."

Retail boxes would need to be licensed and functional with services from any cable operation. The CEA said its proposal also includes improvements to the next generation of CableCARDS.

The cable lobby responded with words to the effect of, "sure, we'll take a look at that, but we submitted our own such proposal nearly a year ago."

"To expedite delivery of more two-way devices to the marketplace, NCTA submitted to the FCC 11 months ago a deregulatory proposal that would establish straightforward technical specifications for use by any manufacturer wanting to build these devices," replied Neal Goldberg, general counsel of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association. "However, the FCC has yet to submit cable's proposal for public comment.

"To the extent that CE companies, for the first time, have developed a consensus proposal for bringing two-way devices to the marketplace, this new proposal should be discussed at the continuing inter-industry discussions that have been underway since 2003," Goldberg continued. "Cable will continue to support a minimal regulatory approach that leverages existing marketplace solutions rather than looking to the government to micromanage and potentially harm the evolution of a thriving retail environment."