FCC chmn Michael Powell granted cable 1 last favor before resigning last week-12 more months to devise a solution for the set-top integration ban. That windy sound you’re hearing is the industry breathing a collective sigh of relief, knowing it now has until July 1 ’07 to come up with an alternative solution to meet the ban (Cfax, 3/18). If the original deadline had stayed, operators would have only been able to deploy CableCARD-enabled set-tops after July 1 ’06. "What [the extension] allows us to do is not to have to try and redesign all our set-tops between now and next summer," a relieved S-A CTO Bob McIntyre said. Instead, S-A, Motorola and cable operators will continue trying to develop a downloadable security solution that could replace CableCARDs in many products. This is key, because a downloadable solution won’t add as much cost to set-tops and CE devices-costs that would be passed down to consumers, McIntyre said. Despite desperately wanting the ban’s ’06 deadline to hold, CEA appeared guardedly optimistic about a downloadable solution. "We recognize and express our appreciation for the Commission’s efforts to set stringent reporting requirements to ensure cable is making a good faith effort toward developing a security system that will allow for a competitive market," CEA pres/CEO Gary Shapiro said. The FCC is requiring cable to report by Dec 1 whether development and deployment of downloadable security is feasible. If determined to be feasible, cable must provide a timeline for deployment and state that it will use downloadable security in its devices. "I won’t predict a date, but I’m pretty confident it can be done," McIntyre said, pointing to cable’s advances with Next Generation Network Architecture (NGNA). And Motorola vp, product mgmt Mark DePietro noted that the deal recently signed with Comcast for next-generation conditional access technology includes downloadable security. McIntyre thinks what the FCC really wants to see is progress on the 2-way Plug & Play agreement. This could take awhile, he cautioned, pointing to Mpeg-2. There were more than 100 very motivated companies involved in those discussions and it still took 6 years; the 2-way talks have been underway for only 2 years.

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