Cable’s Crytpo Plan Leaves CE Unmoved


Unlike other video providers, cable will be forced
to continue delivering programming to third-party
TV devices in some way. The only questions are
how long those rules will remain in effect — and
how stringent they’ll be.

Last month, the National Cable & Telecommunications
Association floated a new proposal
to let Internet Protocol-based devices access encrypted
basic-tier programming. Cable operators
want the Federal Communications Commission to
lift the 18-year-old ban on encrypting basic cable as
they look to cut theft of service by broadband-only

But the consumer-electronics industry wants
much firmer concessions before it’s willing to let
MSOs fully flip the crypto switch.

Under the NCTA proposal, the six largest U.S. operators
would either provide subscribers an IP-based
adapter for decrypting TV signals, at no charge, or
would license the relevant content-security technology
to manufacturers. The trade group suggested the
commitments last for three years and recommended
that other, smaller cable operators also be permitted
to encrypt the basic tier.

In a filing with the FCC last week, The Consumer
Electronics Association called the NCTA’s proposal
“utterly insufficient.”

The CEA complained that the NCTA’s proposal
does not define the devices or interfaces; that the
MSOs’ licensing and certification commitments
are “lacking or insufficient”; and that the three-year
sunset makes the options unworkable for competitive
device entry. The “necessary changes to FCC
regulations should be forward as well as backwardlooking,”
the CEA said.

The FCC in 1994 adopted the rule prohibiting cable
operators from scrambling their digital basic
tiers so viewers with cable-ready TV sets would not
have to buy or rent set-tops.

The NCTA’s position is that the requirement is
outdated — and puts MSOs at a competitive disadvantage
relative to satellite, IPTV and online video

“The fact is that encryption is ubiquitous in the
video marketplace,” NCTA president and CEO Michael
Powell said in a letter to the FCC. “There is
no valid basis for continuing to hold back cable innovation
in today’s dynamic and competitive marketplace.”

Descrambling the Rules

If the FCC rescinds the basic-tier encryption ban, the
six biggest MSOs would provide one of two options:

An adapter with home-networking capability to decrypt
digital TV signals and pass them through to IP devices available
at no charge for a limited time

An encryption solution that would be made commercially
available to third-party manufacturers

Source: NCTA