Tivo has petitioned the FCC to guarantee that cable
customers can continue to use retail set-top boxes with CableCARDs. That
follows a court decision in which EchoStar won its challenge to FCC rules on
the ability to record TV programming. The issue was not CableCARDs, but it
raised questions about cable obligations to support consumer access to the
cards, says TiVo, which it wants the FCC to clear up since those 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," said TiVo.
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 first 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.