Disney Backs DTAs With Crypto

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The Mouse House is officially in favor of letting cable operators use low-cost digital transport adapters — a.k.a. digital-to-analog adapters, or DTAs — that have embedded security features as part of moving to all-digital TV distribution.

A turning point on the DTA issue came in June, when the FCC issued a blanket waiver to Evolution Broadband, exempting any of the vendor’s customers from the agency’s “integrated set-top ban” to be able to deploy DTAs with content encryption enabled (see DTAs Get FCC’s Blessing).

The FCC said it would consider other DTA waiver requests on an expedited basis, leading Motorola, Cisco, Pace and Thomson to promptly get in line (see Vendors File Flurry of Waivers). Those requests and the original Evolution waiver were opposed by the Consumer Electronics Association, as well as six public-interest groups that argued low-cost DTAs would limit consumer choice and let cable operators “lock in” customers and raise prices (see FCC Asked To Reconsider Set-Top Waiver).

The NCTA last week countered that the FCC has long recognized that waivers for low-cost, limited-function devices are in the public interest, and Evolution Broadband maintained that the waiver wouldn’t undermine the common-reliance rule because its DTAs provide very limited functionality.

Motorola, Cisco, Pace and Thomson — along with Nagravision USA — also defended DTAs in a consolidated filing. “Cable’s DBS and telco competitors, including DirecTV, Dish Network, Verizon, and AT&T, already provide all-digital service. The focus of cable’s digitization efforts is on reclaiming analog bandwidth,” the vendors said.

Now the Walt Disney Co. has weighed in on the side of the cable operators and vendors.

In July 9 comments filed in opposition to the interest groups’ petition, Disney said DTAs “provide a public benefit by affording a means for all subscribers to cable services to enjoy the improved resolution and greater variety of digital programming networks being made available today by programmers like Disney.”

A reversal of the Evolution Broadband order “would, paradoxically, work to deprive consumers of access to digital services by precluding multichannel video programming distributors (’MVPDs’) from providing one of the simplest and least costly ways to participate in the digital transition,” Disney said.

Disney also said the anti-DTA petitioners were wrong in suggesting that there is no need use encryption with such low-cost, limited-capability devices.

“In an increasingly digital world, utilizing content encryption methodologies is the only acceptable solution for adequate protection for this content,” the media company said. “This issue is of the utmost importance to Disney and all major content providers, and it is typically a contractual requirement of all MVPDs that they utilize encryption-based security methods when distributing any digital content from Disney.”

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