Atlanta -- Walt Ciciora, a well-known cable-industry
engineering consultant, last week blasted the Consumer Electronics Manufacturers
Association for issuing a joint CEMA-NCTA press release without checking with cable
Saying he was "stunned, saddened and dismayed,"
Ciciora railed against what he called "misbehavior ... that can only cause bad
feelings, suspicions and distrust in a committee that formerly was committed to
cooperation and mutual efforts."
CEMA sent out the release on behalf of the "Joint
Engineering Committee" of CEMA and the National Cable Television Association on April
30 on the eve of last week's National Show here. It said that the cable and
consumer-electronics industries had defined "the basics" for cable-ready,
digital TV receivers.
In an e-mail broadcast to cable's top engineers,
Ciciora said that consensus had not been reached, and termed the release a
"deliberate attempt to create a fait accompli by press release."
The CEMA release said the Cable/CE Joint Engineering Group
had identified "eight essential elements of all cable-ready digital TVs" that
were "the building blocks that are fundamental to the reception of DTV programming
which use the transmission standards developed by the Society of Cable Telecommunications
George Hanover, vice president of engineer for CEMA, was
quoted in the announcement saying that "if cable operators adhere to the standards
and receivers are designed to support them, all non-scrambled cable programs would be
accessible by commercially available digital receivers, without the need of a set-top
Not exactly so, said Ciciora and others. At issue,
according to Jeffrey Krauss, president of Rockville, Md.-based Telecommunications and
Technology Policy, is a still unresolved and absent baseband interface for future digital
Ciciora said the baseband interface and several other
issues were strenuously debated at recent meetings, and that the resulting issuance of an
"all is well" press release oversimplifies and mischaracterizes the issue.
Cynthia Upson, the CEMA spokeswoman listed as a contact on
the controversial release, said that Ciciora overreacted, and that "we were just
reporting, as we've done with many types of things, on what we have agreement on, and
that these steps are essential to defining cable-ready."
But that's exactly the problem, pointed out Ciciora.
"In the past, we have had several 'accidental' submissions to the [Federal
Communications Commission] by the Electronics Industries Association, blamed on
secretaries who 'misunderstood,'" he said in his message. "Even that
pretext is gone here."