A war of good and bad is raging before the FCC over CableCARD rules

Ben Drawbaugh
B. Drawbaugh|07.03.10

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Ben Drawbaugh
July 3rd, 2010
A war of good and bad is raging before the FCC over CableCARD rules
Cisco TA
A war has been raging in front of the FCC these past few weeks with judgment day coming later this year. The FCC wants to move beyond CableCARDs but wants to make the best of it for all those consumer who have already bought into the technology by making some changes to the rules in the interim. The battle isn't as fun or exciting as Jacob vs The Man in Black, but all the companies we love and hate are involved. Reading through the comments makes it very easy to see which companies consider us their customers and which know we have little choice but to buy their service. Basically TiVo and the rest of the consumer electronics industry supports the new changes while the NCTA, its members and suppliers think it is unnecessary because things are just fine the way they are. The biggest item of dispute is if Tuning Adapters are working or if a new solution is needed. On one hand the NCTA says they work just fine and on the other TiVo, the CEA and many individual commenters, say they don't and that a IP back channel would be more reliable, cheaper and easier to support. The only problem the NCTA does see with the current rules is that CableCARD host devices cost too much so the FCC should let them deploy cheaper boxes with integrated security -- we say let 'em do it, just as long as CableLabs starts certifying two-way 3rd party devices too. At this point the comment phase of the process is complete and we all have to wait for the FCC to announce when it'll vote one way or another -- although we expect the vote to happen this Summer if the FCC still intends to implement the changes this Fall. If you want to know who was saying what, click through for our interpretation of the comments.

Telecommunications Industry Association: Went on about how much of a failure it is to mandate technologies like 1394 without contributing any constructive suggestions on how to actually spur competition. Overall the TIAs comments were anti-consumer and pro-establishment -- aka, if you don't like the way we do it, tough.

: CableCARD has been effective at protecting content, keep up the good work -- yes Hollywood if you lock up content so tight no one can even watch it, then it'll be safe.

Intel: We love IP via wires or WiFi, just let 1394 die already. Requiring a physical port isn't enough, it was pointed out that providers just bought boxes with 1394 ports without ever turning them on. Showed a little love of UPnP and DLNA. Very pro-consumer.

Free Press: Calls out the FCC for not doing enough to enforce the telecom ACT of 1996. Gave examples of how the FCC never followed through when private self-regulation fell short. Points out why self install of CableCARD is so important

Entropic: Networking tech can be impossible to predict, kill 1394 and adopt MoCA instead.

Echo Star: We'd rather support other IP interfaces too instead of 1394. Let operators use cheaper hardware without CableCARDs -- an obvious bone thrown to Echostar's would be set-top box customers.

Cisco - The TAs work and the IP solution isn't as easy as TiVo thinks it is -- big shocker that selling another set-top box is agreeable to Cisco.

American Cable Assoc: Let operators use cheaper set-tops even though TiVo and other 3rd parties have no choice but to use the crappy expensive technology.

Charter: Equal billing would force them to raise the price on set-tops with CableCARD, they spent 3 pages explaining why and it makes sense since the boxes do cost more even though they preform the same function, although the cable industry should've thought of that before they implemented CableCARD. Charter also says it needs 4 extra months to train its employees for self installs, which we don't believe since we happen to know the only CableCARD training they get is "how to talk someone out of a CableCARD -- or at least it seems. And yet another we hate the system we created so please don't make us use it, instead let us use cheaper technology while 3rd parties use the expensive stuff.

1394: Our interface rocks, but the cable operators need to implement it properly and let us access the EPG data on the set-top and make sure the two talk in both directions -- communication is key in any successful relationship. Content via 1394 that is marked copy freely should be sent in the clear.

Verizon: CableCARD isn't worth the effort of new rules. Don't make us support SDV on CableCARD devices -- although this is odd since Verizon's FiOS doesn't use SDV and supposedly has so much bandwidth via fiber that it wouldn't need it. Regulating the way CableCARD is billed is unwise and unlawful. Stop making us support CableCARD and include 1394 ports. " instead encourage open and accredited industry standards-setting bodies to continue ongoing work on the development of platform- and technology-neutral solutions" Installing CableCARDs can be complicated -- yeah especially when you don't train your installers.

RVU Alliance: Give operators a choice of their interfaces, so requires at least one of the following 1394, Ethernet, Wifi, USB. RVU is awesome, will help meet the FCC's goals. MoCA should be included as a supported IP based interface, but if you require any IP based interface, even MoCA would be supported. Actually require the interfaces to work, like require it to deliver video in an industry standard. RVU Certification logo program goes live in November 2010.

TWC: We agree with the goals. "The commission need not and should not take further action to replace tuning adapters" "which are working well" -- ha.

And companies we wished would've submitted comments.

Sony (met but no comments filed)
Silicon Dust

Note: We ran out of steam on this one and didn't read all the comments, so feel free to go read the rest of them. And again, these are not quotes, but our interpretation of the comments.
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