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NCTA's Powell: TiVo Just Wrong About CableCARD

National Cable & Telecommunications Association president Michael Powell calls a claim "spurious" by TiVo that an agreement between TiVo and Comcast to work on a non-CableCARD retail set-top retail "solution" argues for retaining the ban on integrated security and channel surfing functions in leased boxes.

The goal of the ban was to spur a robust retail market in boxes, but everyone agrees that hasn't happened. But Powell says it is "peculiar" for TiVo to suggest that continued regulation of the leased set-top market is a way to spur innovation in the retail space.

Powell's response to that TiVo claim came in a letter to the leadership of the Senate Commerce Committee as it prepares to consider reauthorizing the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act, a House-passed version of which contains a provision lifting the ban and Powell wants the Senate to follow suit.

"Technology has simply leapfrogged the integration ban and the CableCARD rules," he says, and with no regulatory imperative, the industry is creating cable IP apps that deliver their services to iOS and Android tablets and smartphones, and compete to serve game consoles, PCs, Macs, Rokus, SmartTVs and more. None use CableCARDS, he points out.

Powell pointed out that the ban currently means that cable operators alone have to include a CableCARD security module in its boxes, which do nothing that an integrated box could not have done except waste energy and pay for portability they neither need nor want.

Powell says TiVo is simply rehashing old arguments and that repealing the ban in the legislation can be done "surgically," which means getting rid of the CableCARD requirement for leased boxes while retaining the requirement that cable operator make security solutions for retail devices to support that national market.

Of the Comcast/TiVo private party agreement, which TiVo argues would not have happened without the ban, Powell says the claim does not stand up. "If anything," he says, "the Comcast-TiVo agreement and other marketplace developments demonstrate that the incentives in today's highly competitive video marketplace are continually pushing cable operators to improve the attractiveness and usability of their services to a wide variety of potential customers, including customers that elect to purchase TiVo and other devices."

Powell said TiVo's assertion that repealing the ban for leased boxes will end retail availability and device competition is false, and pointed out that as a practical matter cable ops will still have to support the CableCARDs already in leased boxes even if they don't have to deploy any more.