Much has been made this year about the cable industry’s drive for OpenCable Application Platform (OCAP) deployments, but in order to truly leverage OCAP applications, there needs to be a new downloadable conditional access system (DCAS) as well. Not to worry, cable has been working overtime on DCAS, and several of the larger cable operators are ready to move forward with trials this year. Comcast, Nagravision and LG Electronics demonstrated DCAS technology in January at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas while Time Warner Cable Senior Vice President Mike Hayashi said at the same show that field trials of DCAS would start later this year followed by larger rollouts next year and then a national footprint of DCAS in 2008. Canceling CableCARDs DCAS was designed by CableLabs to replace CableCARDs. An early implementation of OpenCable and formerly known as point-of-deployment (POD) modules, CableCARDs are costly and currently only uni-directional: CableCARD-equipped TV sets can only receive information from the cable headend, and they can’t send return signals for services such as VOD or pay-per-view. Currently, conditional access (CA) is in the hands of Scientific-Atlanta and Motorola, but cable operators and vendors have long clamored for a more open field. "The CableCARD has turned out to be an expensive proposition and kind of unwieldy," said Wayne Davis, Charter‘s CTO and executive vice president. "The big cost today with digital set-top boxes is conditional access. DCAS allows us to move the conditional access costs down because we’re not confined to a particular hardware." "The second thing it does is it allows us to bring competition into the conditional access world, so if I need to change the conditional access, I can. DCAS achieves a lot of good benefits for us in a world that has been pretty much managed by the duopoly." Currently, when CableCARDs are installed, an ID number pops up on the screen, and then a customer has to call the cable operator with the ID number before it works. In a two-way environment, that process will be automated once the messaging is provisioned by DCAS and OCAP. With OCAP and DCAS, a customer can move from one cable operator to another across the country and simply plug a TV set into it and have it work. OCAP and DCAS will also allow customers to download interfaces, such as an electronic program guide (EPG), that they’re familiar with from their previous provider. FCC timeline Originally, the Federal Communications Commission gave the cable industry until July 1 of this year to separate security from its cable devices, but the National Cable & Telecommunications Association received a one-year extension to finish testing DCAS. Samsung was the first manufacturer to sign a license with CableLabs for DCAS, and in January LG Electronics became the second. Cox Communications CTO Chris Bowick said his company, Time Warner Cable and Comcast "have been working very closely" on a DCAS solution. In addition to the technology itself, MSOs have also been building up DCAS personnel. TWC’s LaJoie said his company has "gone outside of the industry and secured a long-time security professional," but declined to name the new hire. According to Davis, Charter also has a full-time employee devoted to conditional access and is involved in working groups. "The one item we’ve focused on the most has been DCAS," said Bowick, when speaking about his company’s Next Generation Network Architecture (NGNA) plans. "That’s been a primary focus and is the first nut to crack. We’re also focusing on DSG (DOCSIS set-top gateways) and DOCSIS 3.0, but downloadable security is a huge component." Mike Robuck

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Windstream Emerges From Bankruptcy

Windstream successfully completed its financial restructuring process and is a privately-held company as of Monday. While in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the company successfully reduced its debt by more than $4bln

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