CEA Opposes Waiver For DTA Devices

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The Consumer Electronics Association said a small Colorado vendor’s digital-to-analog cable converters should not be granted an exception to the Federal Communication Commission’s separable-security mandate, alleging in a filing with the agency that such a waiver would “harm the public interest.”

Evolution Broadband in May asked the FCC for a three-year waiver to the agency’s separable security mandate.

The Centennial, Colo.-based company said a waiver would allow its customers to deploy digital-to-analog (DTA) adapters and convert their systems to all-digital operation.

For example, Massillon Cable TV in northeast Ohio is in the middle of phasing out analog service—to unlock as much as 500 Megahertz of spectrum—using some 100,000 DTA devices from Evolution.

In its June 16 filing, the CEA said: “This is not the time to be introducing new security technologies that are not disclosed or available to competitive entrants, and that cannot be implemented competitively on a nationally portable basis.”

Evolution’s DTAs use conditional access security from Conax, a subsidiary of Norwegian telecom provider Telenor, which will require operators to simulcast digital channels that need to be encrypted using both Conax and their existing CA system.

“Evolution has not shown that the ‘Conax security’ used by its set-top boxes is available to competitive entrants or nationally portable and scalable to cable systems nationwide, as would be required under commission rules,” the CEA argued.

Asked to comment, Evolution president and chief operating officer Chris Egan said, “The CEA’s response is completely off base. They obviously have no idea what the product is… There’s nothing proprietary about it.”

Egan added that Evolution plans to file a formal response to CEA’s opposition with the FCC.

In its waiver petition, Evolution said CableCards—the removable security devices that the FCC requires most operators to include with their regular digital set-tops—have become widely enough deployed to ensure common reliance on the technology. The top 10 MSOs had deployed more than 4 million such CableCard-enabled set-tops as of March, according to the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.

However, the CEA said, “it is far from ‘obvious’ that the installed base of CableCard-compliant devices is now large enough to ensure that cable operators have a market incentive to support all such devices adequately.”

Evolution has about 35 full-time employees. The CEA represents the interests of approximately 2,200 companies in the consumer-technology industry.

Meanwhile, a joint venture among Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cox Communications—called PolyCipher—is developing a downloadable-security system with the goal of deploying the technology in cable systems nationwide and provide a more flexible alternative to CableCards. Cisco Systems and Motorola have now taken over much of the technical development on the DCAS project.

Is PolyCipher’s DCAS acceptable to the CEA?

CEA spokeswoman Colleen Lerro said the association had no comment on this question “as there is not any tangible technology behind the DCAS license yet. The only agreed upon, nationally portable technology for separable security that is recognized in FCC regulations is the CableCard.”

The CEA’s position, outlined in FCC filings, is that a successor to CableCard should have the same licensing attributes as CableLabs’ DFAST (Dynamic Feedback Arrangement Scrambling Technique) license.

According to the CEA, a downloadable-security solution must, among other things, provide: a “national interface” so that a digital TV or competitive product can be nationally marketed; manufacturer input into the specification and any planned changes, and review prior to final adoption; and “reasonable host device implementation specifications.”

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