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The CEA Strikes Back

Uh-oh. The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) is opposing a three-year waiver request from Evolution Broadband LLC, distributor of a Digital Terminal Adapter (DTA) that Massillon Cable TV Inc. intends to use for an all-digital migration, Multichannel News reports.

CEA's formal opposition to the Evolution Broadband petition, filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on June 16, centers in part on Evolution's use of a conditional access system from Conax AS , rather than employing a CableCARD-based system.

Short of a temporary waiver granted by the FCC, most cable operators are using CableCARDs to meet a separable security mandate that went into effect last July. (See Countdown to 'Seven-Oh-Seven'.)

The CEA argued that granting Evolution a waiver would "harm the public interest."

“Evolution has not shown that the ‘Conax security’ used by its set-top boxes is available to competitive entrants or nationally portable and scalable to cable systems nationwide, as would be required under commission rules," the CEA argued, adding later: "If this waiver is granted, we would expect for CableCARDs, still nascent after four years, to suffer immediately."

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) last reported that the top 10 U.S. MSOs had deployed more than 4.18 million "operator-supplied" CableCARDs as of March 19, 2008. Most of those modules were deployed pre-inserted in digital set-tops. (See CableCARD Update III .)

Evolution Broadband told MCN that the CEA's opposition to the waiver request was "off base" and that the Colorado-based vendor plans to file a response of its own with the FCC.

Expect Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) to be highly interested in how this shakes out. That's because the nation's largest MSO, which lost its latest bid for a waiver on a set of low-end integrated security set-tops, wants to use DTAs in support of an all digital/analog spectrum reclamation strategy in 20 percent of its footprint this year. (See Comcast Confirms Digital Dongle Project and DTAs on Parade .)

There are still questions about whether Comcast's DTAs will employ a conditional access system or deliver programming "in the clear" to ensure that the MSO's implementation complies with the FCC integrated security ban. (See Cisco Doubles Up for Cable.)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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