Cable: DSTAC Report Shows AllVid Mandate Is Unnecessary

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association was generally pleased with the Downloadable Security Technology Advisory Committee (DSTAC) report on a successor to the CableCARD separable security regime, particularly its focus on developing a market-based security solution. But it did not like even the whiff of a return of the AllVid proposal, which was discussed in the report, suggesting the report itself demonstrates the marketplace is already providing video access options.

AllVid is the proposal pushed by computer companies and tech manufacturers—Google, Amazon, the Consumer Electronics Association—for a government-specified gateway device uniting video from various sources.

The good news was that while the report raised the specter of AllVid, "there is no collective recommendation for any new FCC technology mandate," said 30 companies (and DSTAC members), mostly MVPDs and the major Hollywood studios, who signed on to a statement in response to the report that NCTA also endorsed.

In its separate statement, NCTA suggested the marketplace in tandem with cable operators, was already teaming up to provide their own AllVid solution.

"The DSTAC report highlights the tremendous success of MVPD launched apps, which millions of consumers use today to watch video content via all kinds of retail devices including tablets, smartphones, Xbox, Roku, Kindle Fire, Smart TVs and more," said NCTA. "The ongoing introduction of IP technology and cloud-based services will only continue to develop more exciting retail options for consumers."

The report raises the AllVid proposal, but also the potential problems with it.

"Regrettably, the report veers off course by including a controversial proposal to place a burdensome technology mandate on MVPDs known as AllVid," said NCTA. "This approach could jeopardize consumer protections including privacy, emergency alerts, parental controls, and inhibit innovation by allowing the government to dictate the way video content is delivered to consumers."

"Fortunately, the report reflects substantial opposition to the idea of a new, government-imposed technology mandate and extensively describes the proposal’s shortcomings.”

The companies/DSTAC members issuing the joint statement were also playing the part of AllVid ghost hunters, taking aim at the specter.

"Unfortunately, the Report goes beyond this congressionally-directed mission [a downloadable security solution] by describing a proposal by some members to disassemble the programming, features, and functions offered through video providers’ distinctive retail offerings into individual piece parts that any retail device manufacturer could selectively reassemble into a new configuration and new service. Rather than promote a retail market for navigation devices that deliver the MVPD service," they said, "this approach would turn MVPDs into suppliers of programming for commercial use by third parties without responsibilities to content providers or distributors."

The Consumer Electronics Association was keeping its powder dry. "We look forward to reviewing [the report] and thank the FCC and industry for their work."

Tech companies have long pushed for a common IP-based interface, buoyed by the National Broadband Plan proposal of “initiat[ing] a proceeding to ensure that all multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) install a gateway device or equivalent functionality in all new subscriber homes and in all homes requiring replacement set-top boxes."

The FCC, under then-chairman Julius Genachowski, was looking to wed broadband, broadcast, cable and satellite programming services in a TV set-top device as a spur to the broadband deployment and adoption that remains job one for this commission as well.

Cable ops countered that the result would be to deconstruct its programming service in violation of copyright, trademark, contract, licensing and other rights. A position they have maintained throughout the congressionally-mandated process of reviewing the CableCARD and producing a successor.

DSTAC was created by the STELAR satellite legislation to come up with a successor to the CableCARD after the legislation sunset the integrated set-top ban, which in turn was prompted by the failure of that ban to promote a competitive marketplace in set-tops to compete with leased boxes.

The June Hill effort followed warnings from edge providers Google, Amazon and other AllVid fans that not looking more broadly—at AllVid—would be a missed opportunity and result in a "walled garden" approach.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.