Boxee and Comcast reveal cable encryption workaround

Comcast and Boxee are collaborating on a new system that could eventually replace CableCARD and allow third-party set-top boxes like the Boxee Box to access encrypted all-digital cable broadcasts. The two companies detailed the proposed approach in a joint FCC filing, initially using an external cable box that would hook up to STBs via ethernet, but eventually migrating to a licensed integrated digital transport adapter (Integrated DTA) that would provide a more streamlined solution.

Boxee and the cable companies have been at each others' throats in recent months over proposals for encrypting basic cable channels. Such a move, the company argued, would unnecessarily prevent third-party media devices from accessing basic tier channels, forcing viewers into buying STBs directly from cable companies.

Those companies, of course, want to shift to full digital encryption as soon as possible, hence the proposed  two-stage solution to Boxee's complaints. "The initial solution involves the development as soon as possible of a high-definition digital transport adapter with an ethernet connector ("E-DTA")" the letter to the FCC says. "This solution would enable a customer with a third-party device to access basic tier channels directly through an ethernet input on such third-party device or via the home network, and to change channels remotely in the E-DTA via a DLNA protocol."

Although swift, the external adapter could introduce issues around integration with other features in third-party hardware. So, a more longer-term system is also planned, around "the creation of a licensing path for integrating DTA technology into third-party devices ("Integrated DTA"). Such a device could access encrypted basic tier channels without the need for a cable operator-supplied DTA or set-top box."

Both companies believe the solution is the best way to ensure cable channels are protected but not limited in their availability. In a key difference from current authentication systems, meanwhile, there's no mention of CableCARD-based technology, with hints that this could eventually be the all-digital replacement to that system.

[via Zatz Not Funny]