Cable, CE industries divided by 'analog hole'

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While the cable and consumer-electronics industries were able to agree on a plug-and-play standard for digital-TV sets, they have yet to agree on the key issue of how to plug the so-called analog hole.

Not surprisingly, both sides filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission Friday urging it to adopt the plug-and-play agreement they struck last December.

The agreement would allow consumers to buy digital-TV sets that don't require cable set-top boxes to receive high-definition-TV content via cable.

The security of that signal is a key issue, however.

Both sides agreed that free, over-the-air broadcast programming should not be subject to down-resolution -- a way to prevent copying by reducing the resolution of content -- but they differed on whether that ban should be extended to other content providers.

The Consumer Electronics Association and the Consumer Electronics Retailers Coalition said "yes," and asked the FCC to extend the ban to all multichannel-video-program distributors.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association, in contrast, said it believes content providers when they say they won't make high-value digital content available absent down-conversion.

The NCTA said it will support down-conversion if the FCC decides it is the only way to ensure continued access to the kind of high-value content that will drive adoption of digital TV.