Tivo has petitioned the FCC to guarantee that cable customers can continue to use retail set-top boxes with CableCARDS.
That follows a court decision in which EchoStar won its challenge to FCC rules on the ability to record TV programming. The issue was not CableCARDS, but it raised questions about cable obligations to support consumer access to the cards, according to Tivo, which it wants the FCC to clear up since those CableCARDS also allow access to TiVo recording devices.
"[C]ertain technical rules concerning the implementation of CableCARDs [conditional access rules] were contained in the same FCC order that the court struck down despite the fact that operator support for retail devices using CableCARDs was not the subject of the court challenge," said TiVo.
In 2007, the FCC instituted the prohibition on set-tops that combine channel surfing with security. Cable ops were required to use a removable CableCARD security add-on, a move the FCC hoped would goose the retail market, though it conceded at the time that a downloadable software security option would be preferable to the hardware in the long run. It has since conceded that the ban has not spurred that retail market.
TiVo has also asked the commission to rethink its conditional waiver to Charter to supply set-tops with downloadable security, rather than the current CableCARD hardware fix. TiVo is concerned that Charter will no longer support its set-tops, which feature the CableCARD technology, and the ban will translate to a de facto green light for other operators to drop support of the CableCARD in favor of a downloadable security system that has not first been vetted in a separate proceeding.
At the Cable Show in Washington last month, FCC Media Bureau Chief Bill Lake said that one of the "sleeper" issues at the FCC, or more like one that had him tossing and turning in bed, was where to go with navigation devices after the courts essentially threw out the CableCard rules while preserving the integration ban. The question of what downloadable security should be included in navigation devices remains, he said.
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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.