Media Bureau Seeks Comment on TiVo Petition

DVR Maker Wants FCC to Clarify Cable Operator Obligations to Set-Tops with CableCARDS
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The Media Bureau has set a comment schedule for TiVo's petition asking the FCC to insure that cable customers can continue to use retail set-top boxes, like TiVo's, that employ CableCARD security technology.

The commission has set Sept. 16 for comments and Oct. 9 for reply comments on TiVo's petition to reinstate the FCC's CableCARD rules after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit essentially gutted them as part of a decision that the FCC lacked authority to apply encoding rules to all MVPDs, including satellite operators.

The decision was not aimed at CableCARDS, but it raised questions about cable obligations to support consumer access to the cards, and TiVo wants the FCC to make it clear those obligations still apply since CableCARDS also allow access to TiVo recording devices.

"[C]ertain technical rules concerning the implementation of CableCARDs [conditional access rules] were contained in the same FCC order that the court struck down despite the fact that operator support for retail devices using CableCARDs was not the subject of the court challenge," TiVo said in its petition.

In 2007, the FCC instituted the prohibition on set-tops that combine channel surfing with security.

Cable ops were required to use a removable CableCARD security add-on, a move the FCC hoped would goose the retail market, though it conceded at the time that a downloadable software security option would be preferable to the hardware in the long run. It has since conceded that the ban has not spurred that retail market.

TiVo has also asked the commission to rethink its conditional waiver to Charter to supply set-tops with downloadable security, rather than the current CableCARD hardware fix. TiVo is concerned that Charter will no longer support its set-tops, which feature the CableCARD technology, and the ban will translate to a de facto green light for other operators to drop support of the CableCARD in favor of a downloadable security system that has not been vetted in a separate proceeding.

At The Cable Show in Washington last month, FCC Media Bureau Chief Bill Lake said that one of the "sleeper" issues at the FCC, or more like one that had him tossing and turning in bed, was where to go with navigation devices after the courts essentially threw out the CableCARD rules while preserving the integration ban. The question of what downloadable security should be included in navigation devices remains, he said.