CEA Seeks CableCARD Review

5:00 PM -- Perhaps still chafing after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) granted a slew of waivers to simple Digital Terminal Adapter (DTA) devices that sidestep 2007's set-top security integration ban, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) is urging the Commission to review the rule. (See Are the DTA Floodgates Opening Up? and FCC Approves DTAs From Moto, Cisco, Thomson & Pace.)

Citing a recent filing, Multichannel News notes that the CEA is asking the Commission to take another look to determine whether the ban has spurred a market for retail cable boxes and TV sets as intended.

The CEA has historically been in favor of a different, non-cable-industry-controlled system called DCR+. Cable, meanwhile, thinks the CableCARD and tru2way generally serve the purpose, though it has shown interest in the development of a separable security system that would apply to all forms of video service providers, not just cable. (See Two-Way Battle Reaches FCC and Brenner Defends OpenCable .)

So far, there has been scarce retail activity involving TVs and set-tops based on tru2way, a CableLabs platform that calls for a common middleware system and separates security with the CableCARD. Most set-top makers with tru2way plans we've spoken to intend to sell those boxes directly to MSOs rather than at retail. (See Tru2way's Retail Forecast: Cloudy .)

Also not helping cable's cause is the fact that the MSOs that signed the tru2way "memorandum of understanding" originally negotiated with Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE) missed a deadline to have their digital headends ready for tru2way by July 1, 2009. (See MSOs to Miss Tru2way Date and No Penalties for Missing Tru2way Date.)

Although there's every indication that they still intend to meet that obligation, the MOU does have a retail-related sunset clause that could scuttle the whole thing. (See Sony Supports tru2way.)

Specifically, that option comes into play if fewer than 500,000 additional, new retail IDCPs (interactive digital cable products, which can be set-tops or TVs) from the tru2way adopters are connected to receive cable services via CableCARDs or another agreed upon conditional access technology in any rolling 24-month period following July 1, 2009. (See Revealed: The Tru2way MOU.)

Tick-tock, tick-tock!

The CEA is also calling on the Commission to develop "specific criteria that a downloadable conditional access system would have to meet before it could be considered as a successor the to CableCARD."

A cable consortium called Beyond Broadband Technology LLC (BBT) has an FCC-approved downloadable conditional access system that's just starting to get deployed by some small and mid-sized cable MSOs. Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC), meanwhile, is already starting to use a downloadable system based on NDS Ltd. 's "key ladder." The CEA, by the way, isn't all that wild about that one, either. (See BBT Notches First Install , Cablevision Waiver Catches More Heat, and Cablevision Starts Downloading .)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 3:55:38 PM
re: CEA Seeks CableCARD Review

The filing has made it into the FCC's electronic docket. Not much more in there, but if you want to read it in its entirety, it's available here.

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