July 1, 2007, is looming like a black cloud in cable engineers’ minds across the country. That date signifies when the Federal Communications Commission has mandated that cable operators must remove conditional access from their new set-top boxes. From that point on, separable and renewable security needs to be made available to subscribers who buy digital cable-ready TV sets. One way of implementing separable security is through CableCards, although cable operators aren’t that thrilled with CableCards because they’re a stopgap measure en route to downloadable conditional access system (DCAS). 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 can’t send return signals for services such as VOD or pay-per-view. “That’s a huge item,” said Cox’s Craig Smithpeters, who is his company’s manager, advanced technology and standards, of the July 1, 2007, deadline. “You can’t lose focus on it because, unless something changes, we can’t deploy any net new units of the set-top boxes we’re buying today. Obviously, the set-top boxes we have now we can continue to use, but if we add subscribers and we need to buy boxes to support those new subs that are net gains, we’re going to need to buy these new set-top boxes with CableCards in them. We have a lot of separation work already underway, and we’ll probably have a field trial in the second quarter of next year.” While many in the industry feel that the one-way CableCards won’t enable a true retail experience for customers, Cox may use its OCAP trials (see story above) to get a jump on CableCards by trialing Scientific Atlanta’s 8300HDC DVR, which has a CableCard. “We’re taking the opportunity (in the OCAP trials) to also get ourselves ready for the separable security band that kicks in on July 1 next year,” Smithpeters said. – Mike Robuck

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Representation Matters: Fewer Women, People of Color on TV

Nielsen released its first-ever report of the television media landscape’s progress and gaps in on-screen inclusion.

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