Cablelabs and the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) have locked horns over the HD Guru’s CableCARD article “How The Cable Industry Plans to Cheat 10+ Million HDTV Owners-an HD GURUâ„¢ Investigative Report”. Cablelabs disputes the HD Guru’s findings with comments that include “Your article above has a few errors”….and “…CE companies chose to implement receivers that lack the necessary circuitry to provide a full two-way cable experience with the CableCARD.”

The CEA has responded and disputes Cablelabs statements, claiming “HD Guru is quite accurate in his description of the situation” and “Any assertion that the CE industry CHOSE to implement one-way devices is blatant revisionism”.

You can find the Cablelabs complete response as it appears in the comments section of the April 15 post at
as written by Michael (Mike) M. Schwartz, Senior Vice President, Communications, Cablelabs.

Brian Markwalter, V.P. of Technology and Standards for the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) has written its response.

Below is a copy of the complete CEA statement, followed by a reprint of Mr. Schwartz’s comments.

The CEA writes:
“HD Guru is quite accurate in his description of the situation. Any assertion that the CE industry CHOSE to implement one-way devices is blatant revisionism. Despite the fact that CableCARDs were two-way capable and standards had been written to use them that way, the cable industry refused to allow the CE industry to make use of the upstream capability for simple interactive services like VOD. Digital Cable Ready (CableCARD) TVs are one-way because of license terms and not lack of foresight by the CE industry.

CEA believes that HD Guru writes from the perspective of the consumer and got it right. More than 10 years after the law was passed, consumers still cannot buy a TV at retail that competes on equal terms with a middle-of-the-road set top box.”

Mr. Schwartz placed his comments within a copy of the HD Guru text. Here are his words from the comments section in its entirety.

“As of March 19th, the total number of actual subscribers using CableCARDs with retail products is only 347,000 units based on reports by the ten largest cable operators who serve 90% of the cable subscribers.

Actually, nothing is being “disabled”. These sets were never intended or designed to receive content that requires a two-way connection. Content available on cable networks is changing all the time. New services are added, some are redesigned and others are removed.

Actually, this SDV technology is designed to expand the range of services offered by cable operators, not reduce them. This new technology will enable cable operators to add a virtually unlimited number of new services – services that are very specialized or designed for niche audiences. These services will include both HD and SD programming. Unfortunately many CE companies chose to implement receivers that lack the necessary circuitry to provide a full two-way cable experience with the CableCARD. Since those unidirectional receivers are not able to support many of the advanced features and services available on digital cable systems today, the FCC had enough foresight to mandate that the manufacturer properly label the product accordingly so that consumers of these products are not disappointed. If the consumer is dissatisfied with he limited functionality of those sets, they should complain to the manufacturer. [CFR Title 47 part15.123]. The other option, available to all CEs, is to build a fully capable tru2way device that will ensure subscribers can receive not only today’s cable services, but also tomorrows innovations.

Not exactly. It really happed like this: In response to the 1996 Telecom Act, the FCC required the Cable industry to offer removable security cards available for subscribers who requested them for retail devices built to the CableCARD standard. The FCC was specifically mandated NOT to prohibit Cable Operators from being able to also offer their STBs. The cable industry defined and delivered the required removable security CableCARDs (at the time called POD modules) by the July 2000 deadline after investing millions in the project. However since there was no mandate by the FCC on consumer products, there were no retail products produced to make use of CableCARDs.
Notwithstanding the lack of precedent in the 1996 Telecom Act, the FCC moved to ban the use of “integrated” security in Cable operator set-top boxed in the name of “common reliance” (which phrase does not appear anywhere in the law or regulations); Cable Operators would have to use separable CableCARDs instead. This requirement was enforced as of July 2007, forcing the cable industry to pay over $600 million to redesign their set-top-box products in a way that offers no benefit to subscribers. The cable industry met this requirement and in the 9 months since has successfully deployed over 4,184,000 operator-supplied set-top boxes with CableCARDs (recall the CE industry has only produced about 347,000 units to date). Now that is some “common reliance” insurance policy.
The same CableCARDs are used by both consumer products and operator-supplied boxes. The CableCARDs have always been capable of providing two-way services, but the manufacturers of UDCP products chose to design and sell products that lacked the two-way features needed to fully support advanced digital cable services. The first fully two-way cable-ready consumer product was certified by CableLabs in August 2005. [Press Release]

Perhaps the Guru asked the wrong questions? No product was ever originally designed to work with this new Tuning Adaptor including the exiting Tivo UDPC products. In order for them to work, they will need new firmware to connect to this new device. Think of this new firmware as the installation of a USB driver. Since consumer products don’t use Microsoft Windows, they don’t have plug-in drivers. Instead a new firmware update is needed to include the necessary driver controls to interact with this new external device. Makers of any existing UDCPs that already have a USB port (there are many) are just as able to provide new firmware as Tivo, if they chose to do so.

Q2 includes a portion of “this summer”.

Instead, complaints should really be directed to the manufacturer of the products that lack the necessary two-way circuitry to fully interact with advanced cable systems. Instead consumers should look for products identified as to ensure they will be able to get all the new and advanced services their digital cable systems can deliver.”

Copyright ©2008 Gary Merson/HD Guru™. All rights reserved. The content and photos within may not be distributed electronically or copied mechanically without specific written permission.