TiVo seeks CableCARD rules reinstatement

DVR specialist TiVo is urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to ensure that consumers can continue to access cable content on retail devices using CableCARDs until a successor solution is available.

TiVo has filed a petition asking the FCC to reinstate procedures aimed at guaranteeing that cable customers continue to have the ability to use competitive set-top boxes with CableCARDs – providing viewers with greater choice and flexibility. TiVo’s submission comes in response to a recent court decision in a case brought by EchoStar challenging the applicability to satellite providers of FCC rules concerning the ability to record television programming. While TiVo strongly disagrees with the court’s decision with respect to the satellite industry, it says that the ruling unintentionally created uncertainty regarding cable operators’ obligations to support consumer access to CableCARDs because certain technical rules concerning the implementation of CableCARDs 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.

According to TiVo, hundreds of thousands of cable customers currently rely on CableCARDs to gain access to TiVo and other recording and navigation devices with hundreds of thousands of more households expected to gain access in the near future.

The FCC’s encoding and conditional access procedures are rules “that cable operators and consumer electronics manufacturers agreed to a decade ago and that cable operators, content providers, equipment manufacturers, and consumers have relied on for the past decade without controversy,” TiVo Senior Vice President and General Counsel Matthew P. Zinn said in the petition.

“TiVo is eager to work with the cable industry on a successor security solution to CableCARD that works for retail. Until a new solution that can actually enable retail competition is available, however, the FCC must endeavour to make the existing CableCARD standard work for consumers and complementary technology providers because CableCARD currently is the only choice that consumers have to purchase a retail device that gets access to all cable programming,” Zinn noted.

“By vacating the FCC’s encoding and conditional access procedures in an overbroad ruling, the Court inadvertently created uncertainty in the industry — uncertainty that harms well settled consumer expectation, competition and innovation. For example, not only did TiVo bring the first commercial digital video recorder (DVR) to market, it was the first cable DVR to provide large capacity storage, multi-room viewing, integration of over the top video content sources (such as Netflix, YouTube and Hulu Plus) and integrated search, plus streaming to and control of the DVR via iOS tablets and phones. Operator-supplied set-top boxes do not provide Netflix and other over the top content sources. The Commission can and should remove the uncertainty that threatens such innovation and consumer choice by restoring the status quo before the EchoStar decision, so that manufacturers and consumers can have assurance that current retail products will be supported and will continue to work as advertised. However, TiVo is not intending to suggest that the FCC should in any way stop focusing on a viable successor to CableCARD. TiVo has long supported the idea of alternative security solutions so long as they actually enable retail competition,” Zinn said.

“The Commission’s regulations cannot assure commercial availability of retail devices if consumers cannot rely on the products being supported or working as advertised. Reinstatement of the recently vacated rules until a viable successor to CableCARD is available is necessary to facilitate competition, innovation, and new product entries in the marketplace,” Zinn stated.

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