Cable TV Plug-&-Play Proposal Draws Debate

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A proposed cable TV interoperability agreement between the cable TV and CE industries drew wide ranging opinions from various industries in recent filings with the Federal Communications Commission.

The FCC is collecting information to develop cable plug-and-play regulations, which would enable consumer electronics devices to easily interface with cable services. The cable/CE interoperability agreement, which was signed by 12 consumer electronics companies and seven cable multi-system operators last December, is being used as a model in that decision.

The Home Recording Rights Coalition (HRRC) asked the FCC to swiftly adopt the interoperability agreement while "protecting consumers by completely banning the practice of program-by-program down resolution."

The plug-and-play agreement would prohibit programming providers from switching outputs for the purpose of down-converting (or "down-rezing") resolution to protect against potential HDTV piracy.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has advocated the "down-rezing" technique to safeguard its copyrighted property.

Meanwhile, the Satellite Broadcasting & Communications Association asked that a cable-ready agreement be crafted with input from all parties potentially impacted by it. Satellite companies fear the FCC's ruling will be applied to all multi-channel TV service providers, including satellite companies, but satellite companies had not been invited to participate in cable/CE discussions.

Meanwhile, the American Cable Association told the FCC that the plug-and-play proposal could impose disproportionate compliance burdens and costs on smaller cable systems.

The group said many smaller cable businesses would not be able to afford extensive system upgrades of head end equipment to distribute digital TV signals.

The National Association of Broadcasters and the Association for Maximum Service Television said in a joint statement that over-the-air reception capabilities should be included in cable-ready DTV sets so consumers will be able to receive over-the-air programming if they should ever lose or drop their cable services.

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