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The Set-Top Files (Part II)

Jeff Baumgartner
12/28/2009

Several more operators, vendors, and organizations weighed in last week in response to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) 's call for comments on how the feds can help encourage innovation in the video device market. (See FCC Boots Up National Broadband Plan , Whither the CableCARD?, and The Set-Top Files (Part I) .)

TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO)'s comments were the most explosive (and, let's be honest, interesting) by a wide margin, but here's a roundup of what some others had to tell the FCC. Perhaps surprisingly, nothing was filed by Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) or over-the-top video specialists like Roku Inc. , Boxee , and VUDU Inc. Guess they think the everything's hunky-dory as is. (See TiVo Gives Cable Both Barrels .)

  • Cablevision: Get a [down]load of us!
    Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) said it's deployed network support for tru2way, but is asking the FCC to take a closer look at its recently deployed downloadable conditional access system. (See Cablevision Starts Downloading .)

    Cablevision claims the system, which uses the NDS Ltd. "key ladder" and is able to live alongside the CableCARD and tru2way, can help enable portability and open the market up to new box suppliers, citing LG Electronics Inc. (London: LGLD; Korea: 6657.KS) , Advanced Digital Broadcast (ADB) , KAON Media Co. Ltd. , Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS), Funai Electric Co. Ltd. (OTC: FUAIY), and Pace Micro Technology as examples.

  • Verizon: Kill CableCARD and Firewire mandates
    Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) said it's in favor of seeing the FCC encourage the development of standards for "network agnostic" navigation devices and shift its focus on IP and home networking technologies.

    On that note, Verizon, which is already delivering "select" content from the Web, including feeds from Twitter and Facebook, to the set-top box, is asking the Commission to remove existing tech-specific mandates -- such as the IEEE 1394 interface (or "Fireware," which is required in all HD set-tops) and CableCARDs. (See Verizon Adds Twitter, Facebook to FiOS.)

    Instead, it wants the FCC to look at alternatives, including a downloadable security project underway at Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS) . (See ATIS OKs CableCARD Alternative and Will VueKey Trump Tru2way? )

    ATIS filed its own comments, noting that it's furthering that effort with the development of a downloadable security platform that would allow portability of interoperable devices across different networks, but allowed that this part of the project is in its "beginning stages."

  • Nagravision: Mandate SimulCrypt
    Nagravision SA , echoing comments from the American Cable Association (ACA) and Irdeto Access B.V. , is urging the FCC to mandate SimulCrypt, a technique that allows more than one conditional access system to operate on the same video stream.

    But Nagra suggests that the mere presence of SimulCrypt, a technology that could theoretically blow up the Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)/Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) cable video security duopoly in the U.S., "is usually enough to discourage anti-competitive behavior, as there is no 'vendor lock.'"

  • Cisco & Moto: Let's start up a new proceeding
    Cisco said it's devoted substantial resources so its customers can implement the CableCARD, but suggested that the FCC, if it must take action, reserve it via a separate proceeding rather than addressing it as part of the National Broadband Plan.

    Motorola agreed that the Commission should open up a separate Notice of Inquiry on the subject, noting that CableCARD technology is being superseded by digital rights management (DRM) and other security solutions.

  • Google: It's all about openness
    The almighty Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) wants the FCC to adopt policies that remove current CableCARD-related barriers and allow "innovation in devices and interfaces [that are] free from broadband network owner constraints."

  • BBT dangles its dongle
    Beyond Broadband Technology LLC (BBT) , a consortium backed by three smaller MSOs, outlined how a secure microchip and the "BBTSolution" it's developed could be squeezed into a "dongle" (with a USB or HDMI interface) that could be plugged into PCs or "set-back" boxes, and allow operators to use a range of security and conditional access systems. Presently, that chip and system is being used in more traditional set-tops.

  • RVU: We're good for the 'gateway'
    The RVU Alliance said its technology, which enables a consistent user interface to be used on clients hanging off a home network, offers a good fit for a be-all/do-all gateway.

    RVU Alliance, which uses Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) as its foundation, says the technology also allows users to interact with guides and interactive apps on the network using "thin client" (read: cheap, low-end) boxes.

    But it's early days for the technology. The RVU Alliance, founded in the summer by Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM), Cisco, DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV), Samsung Corp. , and Verizon, doesn't expect the first consumer products with its tech on board until sometime next year. But it expects there to be many RVU demos on display at next month's Consumer Electronics Show in Sin City.

    — Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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