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CableCARD 2.0: What's the hold up?

Ben Drawbaugh
Last week we learned that CableCARD 2.0 is a specification (not a physical device) that would allow consumer electronics companies to sell bi-directional CableCARD hosts that would work on any cable system in the US. But ever since CableCARDs started to hit the street we've wanted to be able to take advantage of all the features we pay for -- like VOD and PPV -- and until this specification is ratified companies like TiVo just won't be able to make this happen. While it's difficult to really get a handle on what is holding up the works, it seems like the requirement for OCAP support is the biggest point of contention.

OpenCable Application Platform (OCAP) would allow the cable company to download the same software to every CableCARD 2.0 host device regardless of the manufacturer. The cable companies believe this is essential and will fulfill the FCC's intentions for OpenCable. This would mean that even if you were the type who demanded the best and willing to pay an extra $800 for Series3 TiVo, your DVR would use the same software that your provider issued STB would run. It would be possible for someone like TiVo to develop OCAP software like they are for Comcast right now, but it would be up to each provider to distribute the software to the box you rented or purchased. We're sure the cable companies would love this, they could still control everything -- includes the advertisements -- while complying with the FCC's CableCARD mandate. Lucky for us the CE companies are on to them, and are fighting to get bi-directional functionality and the ability to deploy their own software. After all, the reason TiVo and Vista Media Center are so popular is because of superior software. So while we have no idea when this will get settled, we'd suspect it will require FCC intervention to get it done; we just have one more request: lets make it sooner rather than later.

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