'Ditch the Box' backers to make DVR functions in apps optional

The NCTA's "Ditch the Box" proposal will make DVR functions optional in third-party apps and will not include elements of the FCC's "Unlock the Box" NPRM, which it is countering.

Those are the conclusions rendered by a sift-through of the fairly large data dump rendered Friday by the National Cable Telecommunications Association.

Responding to a flurry of questions about its counter-proposal publicly asked by the FCC in recent weeks, the NCTA published a 33-page response, as well as more than 1,000 pages of technical documents. In response to the FCC's "Unlock the Box" initiative, the pay-TV industry — led by the NCTA — is seeking to counter the proposal with a plan based on authenticated multiscreen apps, much like those used today for TV Everywhere.

In Friday's filing, the NCTA said, that even though HTML5 apps outlined in its Ditch the Box proposal protect copyright, pay-TV operators have "serious and legitimate concerns about recording of content that is decoupled from an MVPD's app."

Asked for clarity on this position by Ars Technica, the NCTA conceded that Comcast's deployment of cloud-based DVR service would solve such a security issue. But recording, pause, rewind, etc. will not be a requirement for apps. 

"We are saying that app recording is possible and highlight how Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) intends to do it with cloud DVR functionality," an NCTA spokesperson said. "It is not required as part of the apps proposal, but that doesn't mean that it won't be a feature that is available."

The NCTA is also resisting what it calls the "bolting on" of Unlock the Box features, such as "information flows" from pay-TV operators to third-party apps.

"A majority of commissioners themselves now acknowledge the NPRM to be flawed, but some proponents of the NPRM's original proposal have nonetheless sought to 'bolt on' the 'information flows' from the NPRM to the HTML5 apps-based proposal," the NCTA said.  

"Some seek those unbundled flows in the name of stripping out the MVPD's user interface in favor of their own, or in favor of allowing third party app developers to write their own apps from the unbundled flows," the lobbying group added. "But they continue to make crystal clear that they do not consider protecting channel lineup, agreed-upon presentation of service, or limiting the spread of pirate content to be within the permissible rights of copyright owners or even tolerable under FCC rules, and seek to use 'information flows' to defeat all such protections. This approach would undo the entire HTML5 approach and recreate the failings of the NPRM proposal."

Meanwhile, apps rendered by third-party companies would have to supply video through the managed networks of pay-TV operators, not over the open Internet.

"The MVPD app would be delivered using technologies that match its purpose as a software replacement for the set-top box for use in the customer's premises for delivery of a Title VI cable service (or MVPD service by satellite or IPTV operators)," the NCTA said. "The cable HTML5 app would be offered over managed IP channels, not over the Internet."

For more:|
- read this NCTA filing
- read this Ars Technica story

Related articles:
NCTA responds to FCC 'Ditch the Box' questions with huge data dump
Comcast: We'll ditch set-tops, just not anytime soon
Wheeler: 'Unlock the Box' will exempt small analog cable systems

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