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Make signal security a condition of license

OTTAWA - Both the CCTA and CAB say that adopting technology that assures its signal is secure must be a condition of Bell ExpressVu's license this time around.

Members of the Canadian Cable Television Association and the Canadian Association of Broadcasters have been complaining for years (quietly at first, but now with much more noise) that ExpressVu's signal is far to easy to steal.

This year, its license renewal year, ExpressVu has undertaken a number of measures to shore up its security, but it's not enough, say its cable competitors and its programming affiliates.

"While CCTA commends Bell ExpressVu for its past efforts as well as its most recent announcement to intensify its on-going efforts to combat television signal theft with a series of new initiatives to be launched this year, these initiatives were committed to through an informal process and as such are not binding in a regulatory sense. CCTA believes that due to the magnitude and prevalence of the problem and the importance these commitments have in protecting the future of the broadcasting system, the Commission should be incorporating them as conditions of licence in Bell ExpressVu's renewal," says the CCTA submission in advance of the October 20th license renewal hearing.

In fact, the cable association submits five new conditions of license for ExpressVu:

* Implementation of the PRISM (ExpressVu's new inventory control system) or similar inventory control and tracking system at 100% of its dealer outlets within 6 months of the renewal decision.
* All receivers sold from the date of the renewal decision must have active program subscriptions tied to them.
* Implementation of enhanced security in all new receivers as of the date of the renewal decision and completion of a swap-out of existing smart cards to 100% of its existing customer base within 18 months of the renewal decision.
* Deployment of an active electronic countermeasures program throughout the licence term to help ensure that only legitimate access cards are and can be used in set-top boxes.
* Filing of annual reports with the Commission providing details on the effectiveness of their signal security and electronic countermeasures programs.

The CAB's wording is not quite as forceful on the issue, but it, too, has asked the Commission to put signal security into ExpressVu's conditions of license, saying the CRTC should "impose conditions of licence concerning reporting requirements regarding the signal theft issue and the implementation of ExpressVu's commitments concerning inventory control, program activation, electronic counter measures and a new conditional access system," says the CAB submission.

The CCTA, not surprisingly perhaps, did not mention Shaw Communications-controlled Star Choice in its Commission submission.

The CAB, however, did (also see story entitled "More DTH rules needed"), and also suggested signal security be a part of that DTH company's license renewal, while acknowledging that any compromises of Star Choice's signal by thieves are few.

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