In a white paper filed with the FCC last Thursday, the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) suggested various changes to the FCC’s pending “unlock the box” rulemaking proposal. The recommended changes are centered on the proposed use of digital certificates to address copyright, privacy, and other concerns raised by multichannel video program distributors (MVPDs) and other critics of the FCC’s plan. Entitled, Unlock the Box: How to Address Opposition and Boost Competition, the CCIA paper also includes recommendations for modifying the alternative, apps-based “ditch the box” proposal that has been offered to the FCC by MVPDs.
Launched in February, the FCC proceeding purports to seek to spur competition in the MVPD market by allowing third-parties to access content and programming that is currently locked into cable set-top boxes by MVPDs and integrate that content into their own navigation devices. After pointing out copyright and consumer privacy concerns associated with the FCC’s “unlock the box” plan, a coalition of MVPDs and cable networks led by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) presented an alternative plan in June that would eliminate set-top boxes in favor of an industry commitment to “develop and deploy video ‘apps’ that all large MVPDs would build to open HTML.5 web standards.”
Emphasizing the potential advantages of digital certificates in promoting consumer privacy and copyright integrity, the CCIA white paper contends that digital certificates “would verify that a competitive [video navigation] device has been tested to conform to rules based on the published certificate’s promise to ensure the device’s compliance.” By adding a digital certificate requirement to its rules, CCIA said, “the Commission could ensure that the competitive device is contractually bound to this set of rules and could uniquely identify the specific device implementation.” As such, CCIA maintained that “offending devices could be blocked or deactivated” while having their digital certificates revoked.
Addressing the security of copyrighted content, CCIA advised the FCC that “a properly implemented hardware security system would effectively protect the chain of security around content handling.” CCIA further argued that issues connected with copyrights and programmer contracts “can be addressed in the contract tied to the digital certificate.” Meanwhile, to enable the MVPD-sponsored “ditch the box” proposal to work with third-party device user interfaces (UIs) in a way that promotes competition, CCIA emphasized that “HTML.5 functionally associated with playback and that of the UI must be separated.” Noting that MVPDs “are familiar with this concept,” CCIA proclaimed that their HTML.5-UI proposal would enable third-party device makers to implement “innovative, competitive navigation solutions.”