Light Reading

New Cable Video Security Rules to Get Real

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner

Christmas is coming early for cable operators that are eager to encrypt the basic TV service tiers in all-digital systems.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has set Dec. 10, 2012 as the effective date for new rules that effectively lift a ban that has prevented MSOs from locking up their basic TV services. The Commission voted in favor of the new rules on Oct. 12, but they could not take effect until 30 days after publication of the order in the Federal Register, which took place on Nov. 9. (See Cable Cleared to Encrypt Basic TV Tiers .)

Cable operators fought hard for the rules, claiming they will reduce basic TV service theft and cut down on truck rolls because MSOs will gain the ability to activate and deactivate customers remotely and reduce expensive truck rolls.

But there are some caveats. Operators taking advantage of the new rules must provide affected customers with a set-top box or a CableCARD for free over a specific time period.

The top six U.S. incumbent MSOs also agreed to provide the technology necessary to let IP-based retail devices, such as the Boxee box, decrypt and display channels in their basic TV lineups. Devices such as Boxee's have historically obtained those signals in unencrypted form -- something called "clear QAM." (See Boxee, Cable Spar Over Video Encryption and Boxee CEO Now a Friend of Big Cable?)

Early on, it's expected that most of the operators subject to the retail device condition (Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), Cox Communications Inc. , Charter Communications Inc. , Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC), and Bright House Networks ) will support it by supplying customers with a new type of Digital Terminal Adapter (DTA) with home-networking capability that can decrypt the basic TV signals and shuttle them along to the retail device. The rules also establish the groundwork for retail suppliers to license and embed the decryption technology.

Why this matters
The date gives cable the official go-ahead to lock up their basic TV tiers in all-digital systems, and will accelerate development activity on a new type of DTA that can work in tandem with a wide range of IP-based video devices sold at retail.

For more

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:17:36 PM
re: New Cable Video Security Rules to Get Real

Hopefully this will prompt a revival for the consumer electronics manufacturers to build new TV sets that are <tru2way> compliant with a CableCARD slot and no need to get a STB from your cable company.

Four of my current HDTVs have CableCARDs and get ALL of the HD channels that Comcast offers.

Hopefully some (all) of the players will resume production of DCR TVs.

My other sets only get the HD channels that Comcast currently does not encrypt.

Sounds like that is going to end soon.

Bruce D Ranger

Wynnedale, IN 46228




Jeff Baumgartner
Jeff Baumgartner,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:17:35 PM
re: New Cable Video Security Rules to Get Real

Hi Bruce,  I wouldn't get my hopes up on seeing much more tru2way activity (if any) in the retail area.  But I do think we'll see things shift to a more software-based approach that could open things up at retail and perhaps solve what tru2way and the CableCARD did not.

As this security rule goes, it should help the Boxees of the world get easier access to just the basic cable TV lineup... and there's a lot of interest from Boxee to get deals done for TV Everywhere content.  JB


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