NCTA Fires Back at CEA

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The squabble between the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and the Consumer Electronics Association over problems with CableCARD deployments continues to keep clerks at the Federal Communications Commission busy.

The latest volley was fired Thursday by the NCTA, which submitted an ex parte letter refuting recent CEA accusations that cable operators are largely to blame for problems cropping up around the removable conditional-access technology.

The CableCARD removable conditional-access technology is aimed at opening up a retail market for devices that can tap directly into cable-TV service.

Using the CableCARD specifications developed at Cable Television Laboratories, consumer-electronics manufacturers came up with TV sets and digital boxes with built-in CableCARD slots. Consumers can obtain CableCARD devices carrying the conditional-access keys from their local cable operators, insert them into the slot and access their digital-cable services.

The FCC is requiring that by July 1, 2007, cable operators must supply set-top boxes that use CableCARDs, but NCTA and CEA filings in recent months indicated that there have been problems with a small percentage of the 170,000 CableCARD devices deployed so far -- and each side is pointing the finger at the other.

In the Thursday filing, NCTA general counsel Neal Goldberg blasted statements by consumer-electronics companies and the CEA in the media that cable operators are to blame for most of the provisioning and support problems surrounding CableCARDs, and that they are actively trying to discourage consumers from buying the devices.

“Unfortunately, the CE misinformation campaign is continuing, and this rebuttal is necessary to have a balanced record before the commission,” Goldberg stated in the filing.

What follows is a 46-page report refuting consumer-electronics makers' claims and responding to specific incidents where consumers had problems.

“Both the CE and cable industries need to step up to the plate and acknowledge that each industry has responsibilities for making [unidirectional digital-cable-ready products]

work properly with CableCARDs, and neither industry can shirk its responsibility, nor blame the other for all of the problems that may arise with UDCPs,” Goldberg said.

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