CableCARD's Mid-Course Correction
Chief among the tweaks, issued Wednesday (Jan. 26), is one that still lets those devices use IP interfaces, but doesn’t allow them to use that connection for operator-supplied video-on-demand and DVR services.
For the FCC that's a pretty important distinction because the Commission originally granted a blanket exemption on HD-DTAs with embedded security so long as the boxes couldn't be used for "advanced" services like VoD.
By hobbling the IP interface in this way, the HD-DTAs won't be able to set up VoD streams or connect to operator-supplied DVR services, leaving the HD-DTA pretty dumb, largely relegated to broadcast video coming downstream.
But there's a big DVR caveat that looks to protect retail entities like TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO). The FCC rules do allow those DTAs to use the IP interface to connect to a DVR purchased at retail.
Still, the FCC's adjustments don't appear to address a technical option that could theoretically enable a one-way DTA to access cable-supplied VoD services. Although DTAs don't have a traditional cable return path, it's still possible to "force tune" the DTA by sending a signal downstream to the device from the headend. (See Comcast: DTAs Can Be 'Force-Tuned' and To Xfinity... & Beyond!.)
One practical purpose is to ensure that the DTA is capable of receiving emergency alert system messages. However, with some additional work, an MSO could let a subscriber set up a VoD session from an IP connected device (such as an iPad).
Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) already uses force-tuning in tandem with Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format (EBIF) so its Xfinity Remote app for tablets can change channels on the set-top box and set up VoD sessions. However, it developed that for its two-way digital set-tops, and has made no move to extend similar functionality to DTAs. (See EBIF Coming to DTAs .)
— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable