Intel Wants FCC To Require Cable HD Set-Tops To Speak IP

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Intel suggested that the Federal Communications Commission amend its rules to require cable operators to provide an Internet protocol networking interface, such as Ethernet, on their high-definition set-top boxes.

The proposed change would mandate that cable’s high-end set-top boxes include a way to transfer HD cable programming to authorized IP-based video playback devices.

In a filing Thursday with the agency, the giant chip-maker documented an ex parte presentation July 16 with an adviser to commissioner Robert McDowell.

According to the letter, Jeffrey Lawrence, Intel’s director of digital home and content policy, discussed “trends in home networking of audiovisual content from cable systems,” and the increase in the number of home networks using Internet protocol.

Lawrence noted that under current FCC regulations, cable operators are required to include a functional IEEE 1394 interface on HD set-top boxes leased to consumers. IEEE 1394, also known as FireWire, is a high-speed data transfer specification designed for multimedia.

“Given the marketplace acceptance of IP, it was suggested that this regulation should be amended so as to make mandatory the availability of an IP-based interface that facilitates home networking, such as Ethernet, in those products,” according to Intel’s filing.

Asked about the rationale for the change in rules, Intel spokesman Bill Kircos said in an e-mail that the company was trying to update the requirements placed on cable set-tops to reflect the changes in the market. 

"Today, there is a requirement for 1394 connections for every set-top, but the world and market have moved to the Internet and IP-based home networking, and the 1394 connectors is rarely if ever used," Kircos wrote.

In the FCC filing, Intel noted that in August 2007, CableLabs approved the use of the Digital Transmission Copy Protection (DTCP) over IP specification on cable boxes, using IP-based outputs under all license agreements.

That agreement concluded months of wrangling over the issue of transferring high-value video content over IP to other consumer-electronics devices, which involved CableLabs, movie studios—Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Walt Disney and Warner Bros.—and the Digital Transmission Licensing Administrator (DTLA), a group formed by Hitachi, Intel, Panasonic, Sony and Toshiba.

Under the agreement, the DTLA’s DTCP-IP specification, which includes protection against unauthorized copying or retransmission over the Internet, is an approved output for licensees of CableLabs’ unidirectional and bidirectional digital-cable technologies.

Separately, Intel last year signed an agreement with CableLabs to license tru2way technology for interactive cable applications (formerly called the OpenCable Application Platform).

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