Video services

Cable Tries to Break Video Encryption Stalemate

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) prevents most MSOs from encrypting their basic video tiers, but the six largest U.S. cable operators are floating a proposal they hope could change that stance.

Operators want to encrypt the basic tier in all-digital systems in part to reduce TV service theft by broadband-only customers. But the idea has met resistance from parties such as Boxee , which enables its broadband-connected box to support unencrypted "clear QAM" TV channels in the basic tier. (See Boxee, Cable Spar Over Video Encryption .)

The operators are proposing the creation of two encryption options, as submitted in a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski from Michael Powell, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) CEO:

The six largest incumbent cable MSOs -- Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications Inc. , Charter Communications Inc. , Cablevision, Bright House Networks -- have pledged to support the proposed framework. They serve more than 84 percent of the nation's cable customers, according to the NCTA's estimates.

A separate proposal from Comcast and Boxee, also floated at the FCC, would use Ethernet-connected DTAs to pass basic video signals and a longer-term option that would let companies like Boxee obtain licenses to embed the DTA functionality.

Why this matters
The nation's major MSOs are chomping at the bit to encrypt their basic tiers and hope this proposal will not only appease the consumer electronics industry but also get the FCC to act favorably on the proposed rulemaking.

If the idea is approved, it may be the final nail in the coffin of AllVid, a possible successor to the CableCARD circulating at the Commission that would apply to cable, telco and satellite TV service providers. The cable industry is keen to avoid another government mandate and, in fact, would rather have the FCC abolish the existing ban on set-tops with integrated security, which took effect in July 2007.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 5:26:24 PM
re: Cable Tries to Break Video Encryption Stalemate

How many potential nails in the AllVid coffin have we written about?  I get the feeling the cable operators really don't want that thing to happen.

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 5:26:22 PM
re: Cable Tries to Break Video Encryption Stalemate The sort of ironic thing here is that the idea behind allvid has discussed the idea of using adapters of some sort so retail devices could get access to cable programming. But this looks like cable pitching an idea that the big operators can live with. Of course what is not covered by this is vod. Tru2way is out there but boxee and tivo have resistes that....but there is a way to do cable vod without tru2way using an IP backchannel but that still requires a cablecard...something Tivo is starting to do. Seems that there is no uniform way for cable to support retail though some kluges have emereged that perhaps both cable and the CE guys can live with. Jb
Cooper10 12/5/2012 | 5:25:47 PM
re: Cable Tries to Break Video Encryption Stalemate

What is most surprising about this is that the Boxee device was NEVER intended to work with a pay TV service (if it was, it would have had traditional TV inputs vs. USB inputs). It was only after Boxee failed to reach agreement with Hulu on access to IP broadcast content on the Boxee device that they came out with the Live TV adapter, and even that was intended for use with an OTA antenna.  Despite that, Boxee was somehow able to convince the FCC that it was the cable industry's responsibility to be compatible with a device never designed to work with cable.  Your tax dollars at work...

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