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Cablevision Counters CEA CableCARD Claims

Jeff Baumgartner
12/23/2008

Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) says its plans for a downloadable conditional access system (DCAS) are based on open standards and non-proprietary technologies, countering an opposing view from the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) that seeks to derail the MSO’s set-top security effort.

To recap: Cablevision is seeking an extended set-top waiver from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that, the MSO claims, will allow it to develop an "open" downloadable security system based on technologies developed by NDS Ltd. . Cablevision, which currently has a waiver to continue deploying digital set-tops with NDS-based SmartCards through July 1, 2009, wants it extended through December 2010. Cablevision claims it needs that grace period so it can complete one-third of its DCAS deployment by July 1, 2009, and complete the transition by September 2010. (See Cablevision Seeks Extended Security Waiver.)

In a filing with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) earlier this month, the CEA argued that Cablevision’s request is tantamount to a “permanent extension” of its temporary waiver, and that, if such a waiver was granted, would “end common reliance on CableCARDs.” It also objected to Cablevision’s use of embedded chipsets from NDS that the CES believes to be proprietary. (See CEA Chirps at Cablevision Set-Top Request .)

In comments filed at the FCC this week, Cablevision said the waiver request is not permanent, but instead seeks an 18-month extension, and that the CEA is rehashing old arguments about DCAS and not addressing the MSO’s actual proposal. On that point, it reiterated its position that the proposed NDS “key ladder” (K-LAD) is open and non-proprietary and already being used in video-decoder chips from 10 manufacturers, including Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM), STMicroelectronics NV (NYSE: STM), and Conexant Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CNXT).

“Any CE manufacturer can use these chips and the NDS technology (which is licensed freely) to build devices that would receive Cablevision services with the same security that Cablevision would be using in its own leased devices,” Cablevision noted. Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC) and LG Electronics Inc. (London: LGLD; Korea: 6657.KS) are already developing “beta” set-tops that use the NDS platform.

To amplify that point, the filing also included a statement from NDS chairman and CEO Abe Peled noting that the security and encryption company agrees to license K-LAD on a “royalty free, ‘as-is’ basis with no warranties and indemnities” to makers of chipsets that are used in two-way, cable-ready devices, including TVs, set-tops, and video recording devices. NDS, however, said it could retain nonexclusive rights to act as “administrator” to the K-LAD platform.

Cablevision also took umbrage at the CEA’s claim that the new downloadable system would end common reliance on CableCARDs -- the most widely used form of separable security since the FCC ban on integrated set-top security went into effect last July. (See Countdown to 'Seven-Oh-Seven'.)

Cablevision says it supports more than 16,000 CableCARD customers and is committed to continuing that support. But Cablevision likewise holds that the FCC has “expressly encouraged” video service operators “to develop and deploy alternatives,” noting that Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) and others are working on separable security projects of their own. (See Will VueKey Trump Tru2way? , ATIS OKs CableCARD for IPTV, and BBT Inches Toward DCAS Solution.)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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