Boxee and Comcast Agree To Something

Dave Zatz —  June 29, 2012 — 12 Comments

boxee-cablecard

Earlier this year, Boxee petitioned the FCC regarding the possibility of Big Cable encrypting their basic tiers, including the local affiliates. Despite the NCTA’s less-than-friendly retort, Comcast and Boxee seemed to have found some common ground in providing Boxee devices access to basic cable. From their joint FCC filing:

Comcast and Boxee representatives updated Commission staff on discussions between Comcast and Boxee on an initial and a long-term solution for consumers with retail IP-capable Clear QAM devices (“third-party devices”) to access encrypted basic tier channels in Comcast’s all-digital cable systems once the Commission allows for such encryption.

The initial solution involves the development as soon as possible of a high-definition digital transport adapter with an ethernet connector (“E-DTA”). This solution would enable a customer with a third-party device to access basic tier channels directly through an ethernet input on such third-party device or via the home network, and to change channels remotely in the E-DTA via a DLNA protocol.

The long-term solution, which would follow shortly after the initial solution, involves the creation of a licensing path for integrating DTA technology into third-party devices (“Integrated DTA”). Such a device could access encrypted basic tier channels without the need for a cable operator-supplied DTA or set-top box.

What’s most interesting about this proposal is the fact that it doesn’t involve CableCARDs — the existing solution for third party products to authenticate and access cable content. While Light Reading believes these access methods may foreshadow the death of AllVid, I see this more as the road to an industry-created AllVid solution – some secure, centralized way to distribute cable around the home… that manufactures like Boxee and TiVo could leverage. And without the ongoing hassle and confusion of CableCARD.

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12 responses to Boxee and Comcast Agree To Something

  1. They repeatedly say “encrypted basic tier”. It’s in every single paragraph. It seems pretty clear that they don’t intend this solution to replace cableCARD, just clearQAM.

    Of course once you’ve got the technology, allowing it on extended/premium channels wouldn’t be a technical limitation. But that doesn’t mean they’ll do it, quite the contrary.

  2. Maybe it would end with the basic tier, maybe not. And if they want to keep the FCC off their backs, they might want to move it forward. Regardless, I see this as a very interesting and positive development.

  3. I see this as eventually resulting in a $99 box that decrypts basic tier channels only and delivers them over DLNA. It’ll crash a lot and barely work, just like tuning adapters. That’s the optimistic view.

    The pessimistic view is that they agree to make the box with no timeline, immediately encrypt the basic tier, and then just…. forget about it, or delay it in development for a decade.

  4. Agree – there are quite a few tuning adapter parallels here and that was a debacle that required FCC intervention.

  5. “Required”? My tuning adapter still doesn’t work. It crashes constantly and refuses to tune channels.

    Also, TiVo has a bug where it will no longer record suggestions with a TA installed. That’s not the TA’s fault, of course, it’s just TiVo engineering sucking like usual.

    I don’t even plug it in. The TA just sits in my AV cabinet with no power.

  6. If it’s still flaking out on you and you have the energy, I’d file the FCC complaint. But I recognize not everyone is motivated to do so. I know I should have on multiple occasions… :/ When I was fighting Cox and my two tuning adapters, it occurred me to go with your approach. But too many of their channels were switched, including things we’d want to watch like AMC and CNN.

  7. I just watch that stuff in SD now or get it from internet sources. Dealing with the cable company is too painful. Every change means I need to take a day off work for a truck roll.

    And even if they do manage to fix the TA, my TiVo still won’t record suggestions.

  8. I never understood the dispute here anyway. How can Big Cable encrypt local channels? Aren’t those required to use ClearQAM by the FCC?

  9. The locals thing is unclear… to me anyway. As far as encrypting the basic tier, cable wants this to prevent splitting cable between neighbors or requiring truck rolls to street boxes or homes to enable/disable content. They don’t want folks getting this for free and don’t want to pay to lock it down manually. Some details on this issue in regards to cable traps here:

    http://www.cabletechtalk.com/tech-discussions/2012/02/17/its-a-trap/

  10. Comcast has been doing this for a while, and since the FCC gave them the green light to include encryption in the DTA’s without requiring cable cards, its pretty much been an obvious outcome ever since…

    IFFFFF this actually comes about and isn’t a debacle like the current DTAs, it could be the way forward.

    But like Radolpho I have my doubts. If they task Motorola and Cisco with the job of making these things, and the outcome is that fewer people would end up using their expensive STBs as a result, do you really expect them to make something great/reliable etc?

    The only way this happens is if Comcast gets somebody else to do it, or creates a standard that allows multiple vendors (like Samsung say, or any vendor that doesn’t have a lot of STBs at Comcast just now) to build such things…

  11. Jon the Heretic June 30, 2012 at 8:48 am

    Other than Network channels, all of my HD channels, including AMC, require a Tuning Adapter. My Tivo Premiere rarely crashes but the TA does so about once a month. I am still waiting for an episode of Chuck to be streamed last Fall missed during one of the TA crashes. And all of these channels are locked down with that itty bitty little byte flag so that I can’t bankrupt Charter by bringing Breaking Bad to the Beach.

    Boo Tuning Adapters and all similar craptastic, half implemented junk all the same lines.

  12. Boxee is doing too much at once. The box is buggy, needs big time flash update, watch later (a big feature) doesn’t update in real time, they have promised a lot and haven’t delivered. I understand that its an important time to be in the cable/tv/webTV industry and they probably want to be the one going up against Apple, but I hope they can at least set some people aside to fix current issues.

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