FCC Set-Top Committee to Meet Aug. 4

The FCC has called an Aug. 4 meeting of the Downloadable Security Technology Advisory Committee, as the FCC committee gets down to the short strokes on recommendations for a downloadable successor to the CableCARD hardware for set-top box security.

It also comes amidst calls that the FCC recommend opening up those boxes to all video comers in an age of OTT.

The FCC's Downloadable Security Technology Advisory Committee (DSTAC) was formed in January of this year, mandated by Congress in the STELAR Act. The FCC's current ban on set-tops with integrated security sunsets next year per the bill and DSTAC is charged with recommendations on downloadable security by Sept. 4.

The agenda for the Aug. 4 meeting is focused on a report from the Security Requirements for Downloadable Security (WG3) and Device Platforms, Variability, And Interfaces working groups, but will be open to any issues related to DSTAC's work that may arise.

Among the issues that have already arisen are pushed by computer companies and others to look beyond security to promoting set-tops that pass through a variety of video options—the "AllVid" proposal that got some currency during the chairmanship of Julius Genachowski, as well as pushback from cable operators not keen on government-led disaggregation of their content.

More recently, a bipartisan pair of House members asked DSTAC not to turn their gatherings into an AllVid revival meeting.

In a letter to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, Reps. Bob Latta (R-Ohio) and Gene Green (D-Texas), suggested that some DSTAC members, as well as members of Wheeler's staff, were trying to steer the effort toward reviving AllVid: “The limited scope of DSTAC and it’s purpose is clear," they wrote, "and the language that defines it has been agreed upon in both the House and the Senate unanimously. Unfortunately, DSTAC has ignored the statutory language in order to resurrect a proposal that has been previously discredited [Allvid]. This is not why Congress directed the FCC to establish this working group, and we urge the Chairman to act to ensure DSTAC does not exceed the bounds of the statute, and to follow the Congressional mandate.”

On the other side of the Hill, some Senators were pushing in the other direction, though the National Cable & Telecommunications Association said they were misrepresenting the issue and the STELAR Act.

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.