FCC Requires Firewire in Set-top Boxes

A Federal Communications Commission (FCC) directive which came into force this month, requires cable operators to provide a Firewire (IEEE1394) -enabled set-top box to customers who require them. The FFC have long been promoting interoperability between STBs and other equipment, and this looks like another step down that road.

According to an HP paper on the subject (linked below) β€œThe distributed set top architecture becomes more compelling when multiple devices, interconnected by a 1394 cluster/backbone network, can access an access network gateway simultaneously.”

Using the Firewire interface, customers will be able to connect their STB to a range of other devices, such as PVRs or Firewire enabled PCs and Macintoshes. Customers will be able to capture MPEG2 streams to for storage elsewhere – provided it’s within the 4.5m reach of a 1394 cable.

A Firewire interface doesn’t mean that customers will just be able to rip content – anything coming through that port can still be protected by DRM measures, IEEE1394 is just an interface after all. However, the inclusion of a Firewire port does allow the distribution of protected content to other devices around the home.

HP’s report on Firewire and set-top boxes

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Fraser Lovatt

Fraser Lovatt has spent the last fifteen years working in publishing, TV and the Internet in various capacities, and believes that they will be seperate platforms for at least a while yet. His main interests at the moment are exploring where Linux is taking home entertainment and how technology is conferring technical skills on more and more people. Fraser Lovatt was born in the same year that 2001: A Space Odyssey was delighting and confusing people in the cinemas, and developed a lifelong love of technology as soon as he realised that things could be taken apart, sometimes put back together again, but mostly left in bits or made into something the original designer hadn't quite planned upon. At school he was definitely in the ZX Spectrum/Magpie/BMX camp, rather than the BBC Micro/Blue Peter/well-behaved group. This is all deeply ironic as he later went on to spend nine years working at the BBC. After a few years of working as a bookseller in Scotland, ("Back when it was actually a skilled profession" he'll tell anyone still listening), he moved to England for reasons he can't quite explain adequately to himself. After a couple of publishing jobs punctuated by sporadic bursts of travelling and photography came the aforementioned nine years at the BBC where he specialised in internet technologies and video. These days his primary interests are Java, Linux, videogames and pies - and if they're not candidates for convergence, then what is?