NCTA on CableCARD Successor: There's An App for That

Tells FCC Mandating AllVid Would Be Unconstitutional

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association has told the FCC just what it thinks of an AllVid proposal mandating set-top standards for passing through video from various sources: It would exceed the FCC's authority, was not mandated by Congress, and would be illegal and unconstitutional.

The NCTA filed reply comments on the FCC's report on downloadable security from the appropriately named Downloadable Security Technology Advisory Committee (DSTAC), which was formed by the commission in January and published its recommendations in August.

The committee's report offered a number of alternatives for a software solution to the integrated security and surfing set-top functions whose CableCARD hardware mandate was axed by Congress in the STELAR satellite legislation.

The NCTA was generally pleased with the report on a successor to the CableCARD separable security regime, particularly its focus on developing a market-based security solution. But it did not like even the whiff of a return of the AllVid proposal, which was discussed in the report.

The NCTA made its disdain clear in its reply to AllVid backers. It said they had not made the case for FCC authority, or any reason for a mandate if the FCC had the authority.

The NCTA said the apps platforms for accessing content is the future of TV, and MVPDs and OVDs are already expanding their competitive features, which are available on retail devices like tablets, phones and Roku.

"Contrary to misinformation advanced by AllVid proponents," said NCTA, "apps provide a recordable output, add download-to-go for mobile devices, and provide recordability via cloud-based DVRs. Apps even map a path for eliminating the set-top box (and set-top box rentals) altogether." 

By contrast, it called the latest AllVid proposal "vaporware that does not represent a workable solution." It said that while its proponents keep changing their description of the technology, it was essentially new lipstick on the same pig.

And even if it weren't vaporware, the NCTA said, it would be illegal ware.

AllVid "would violate MVPDs' First Amendment rights by forcing the altered presentation of their services, and their Fifth Amendment rights by taking their private property without just (or any) compensation..." it said.

Tech companies have long pushed for a common IP-based interface, buoyed by the National Broadband Plan proposal of "initiat[ing] a proceeding to ensure that all multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) install a gateway device or equivalent functionality in all new subscriber homes and in all homes requiring replacement set-top boxes."

The FCC, under then-chairman Julius Genachowski, was looking to wed broadband, broadcast, cable and satellite programming services in a TV set-top device as a spur to the broadband deployment and adoption that remains job one for this commission as well.

Cable ops countered that the result would be to deconstruct its programming service in violation of copyright, trademark, contract, licensing and other rights. That's a position they have maintained throughout the congressionally-mandated process of reviewing the CableCARD and producing a successor.

DSTAC was created by the STELAR satellite legislation to come up with a successor to the CableCARD after the legislation sunset the integrated set-top ban, which in turn was prompted by the failure of that ban to promote a competitive marketplace in set-tops to compete with leased boxes.