Hauppauge asks for continued open market for CableCARD

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Brainsuck

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Hauppauge asks for continued open market for CableCARD

#1

Post by Brainsuck » Sun Oct 19, 2014 12:54 pm

An open letter to Hauppauge TV tuner users

Hauppauge has been supporting TV tuners in Windows Media Center for over
10 years. Our tuners allow users of Windows Media Center in Windows XP, 7 and 8 to watch and record their favorite TV programs, a feature which I personally use every day and find invaluable in my TV watching experience.

Two years ago, the cable TV industry convinced the U.S. FCC to allow the elimination of clear QAM TV (unencrypted cable TV programs) from any cable TV system in the U.S. This meant all cable TV users would need to rent or buy a cable TV box or a CableCARD receiver in order to watch and record cable TV.

While Hauppauge felt, and told the FCC, that eliminating clear QAM TV programs was not in the consumers best interests, the FCC moved forward with these new rules and slowly but surely, all of us have seen clear QAM TV programs being eliminated from our local cable TV networks. How many of you were using a Hauppauge TV tuner to watch clear QAM TV channels from your local cable TV network, and one day turned on your TV tuner and found the screen was blank? I was one of those affected by clear QAM being eliminated and felt the same pain you did.

This left American cable TV viewers with only a choice of renting boxes from their local cable operator, or buying a CableCARD receiver from Hauppauge or others like Tivo, Samsung or Silicon Dust. Now, CableCARD happens to be a very interesting technology in that the FCC several years ago mandated that all U.S. cable TV providers allow any subscriber to buy their own CableCARD TV box and use it on any cable system in the U.S. This is very cool. It means you can buy your own CableCARD TV box and if you move, you are guaranteed you can use this box on a different cable TV system. And you are allowed to own, rather than rent, your cable TV equipment. All of us using CableCARD TV receivers can thank the FCC for this!.

But here's the problem.

The cable TV industry has persuaded the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate Commerce Committee to include (in a bill regarding Satellite TV and not even about cable TV) a provision that will effectively kill CableCARD. This bill will allow cable operators to no longer have to use CableCARDs in their own TV boxes, and cable TV companies will no longer have to provide CableCARDs to consumers like us. If this bill goes through, cable TV companies will no longer have to give you a CableCARD to plug into your Hauppauge, Tivo, Samsung or Silicon Dust TV receiver box.

This means that you would not be able to create your own Windows Media Center system or be able to buy a CableCARD based cable TV box and use it on another cable system in the U.S. This is very crazy and very anti-consumer, but it seems as though the U.S. Congress is moving ahead to eliminate CableCARD!

But there is some hope! Senator Markey, who’s from Massachusetts, has proposed that any attempt to kill CableCARD be put on hold until such time as there is a replacement standard. As an engineer, I know that there are a number of ways in which CableCARD could be improved, but to eliminate CableCARD before there is an alternative is, in my opinion, a very bad idea. It’s difficult to develop a replacement for an important technology without knowing what that new technology is.

Senator Markey's amendment would put off forcing the FCC to revoke its "common reliance" rule until the FCC and cable TV companies have identified a successor technology that would not be unduly burdensome for smaller companies like Hauppauge or big cable TV companies. He is insisting that the full Senate not act on S. 2799 (nicknamed the "STAVRA" bill) unless the bill addresses his amendment.

Those who believe in consumer choice and competitive markets should join me in urging their own Senators to back Senator Markey's stand.

It would be great if all fans of TV tuners send a letter to their local Senator to tell them that eliminating CableCARD is NOT in your best interests. And that you request them to insist that bill S. 2799 (nicknamed the "STAVRA" bill) not be brought up for a vote until it addresses Senator Markey's “competitive device” amendment. You can send an email message to your own Senator, or call or write to their office.

I do hope you will help me and all fans of PC based TV tuners to save CableCARD and keep an open market for CableCARD TV receivers.

Thank you!
Ken Plotkin - President
Hauppauge

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#2

Post by adam1991 » Sun Oct 19, 2014 3:32 pm

eh. The industry is already forcing its own demise by pricing itself way out of whack. Cord cutting is real, and stuff like this will only encourage it.

I'm amazed at how many people think that TV, by definition, comes from the cable company--and are caught by surprise that you can put up an antenna and get the networks.

Maybe if Hauppauge would better serve those of us looking to use an antenna, by offering high quality OTA tuners that can do 4 or 6 streams in one unit like the cableCARD tuners can, Hauppauge would be better off as a company.

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#3

Post by STC » Sun Oct 19, 2014 4:35 pm

^ I would tend to agree.

CableTV in the traditional sense is being superseded by a technology that already exists contrary to Hauppauge's comments above. Sure it's slow to evolve, but it's certainly real...

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/10/17 ... next_year/

/Also if there ever is a new tech that develops similar to CABLECARD with hardware and protected path that would record traditional cable TV, then there really needs to be a new 'MediaCenter' made by some other 3rd party and that will take investment and large cahoonas. I don't know how long this old 'unsupported' bird can keep getting band-aids on it but it most definitely is not a suitable platform for new tech IMO.
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#4

Post by wayne1935 » Sun Oct 19, 2014 4:56 pm

CBS is also getting on the bandwagon.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/pers ... /17347813/

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#5

Post by richard1980 » Sun Oct 19, 2014 5:04 pm

Note the following text from the bill summary:

Terminates, two years after this Act's enactment, the FCC's set-top box integration ban that prohibits MVPDs from placing in service new navigation devices that perform both conditional access and other functions in a single integrated device. Directs the FCC to convene a working group to identify standards for a non-burdensome, uniform, technology-neutral, software-based, downloadable security system that promotes the competitive availability of such devices.

I fail to see how that is "crazy and very anti-consumer". The bill gives the FCC 2 years to come up with a successor technology, which presumably the FCC would require to be deployed before the end of that 2-year window.

With regards to this part of the bill, voting against this bill isn't a bad idea, but voting for it isn't a bad idea either.

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#6

Post by STC » Sun Oct 19, 2014 7:13 pm

^ lol :D
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#7

Post by erkotz » Mon Oct 20, 2014 7:07 pm

I have not read the bill in its entirety, but can assure you that downloadable security is the future. As long as it is implemented in such a way that allows third-party manufacturers (such as Ceton) to produce compatible hardware, I would actually prefer to see the industry go that route. It makes a number of things easier.
I can assure you that CableCARD will be supported into the future even if downloadable security comes into existence - we spoke with one large operator that indicated they were looking at downloadable security, but planned to support CableCARD through at least 2025
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#8

Post by poit57 » Mon Oct 20, 2014 7:22 pm

Brainsuck wrote:... the FCC moved forward with these new rules and slowly but surely, all of us have seen clear QAM TV programs being eliminated from our local cable TV networks.
Is this really happening with cable providers around the country? I have seen a few times where the QAM stations get temporarily switched around (e.g. NBC appearing on the channel where ABC normally is for a few hours). Other than that, I haven't seen any indication that my cable provider (Cox in Oklahoma City) is going to stop sending out a QAM signal

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#9

Post by erkotz » Mon Oct 20, 2014 7:26 pm

OK, I just read the bill (https://www.congress.gov/bill/113th-con ... -bill/2799) and to be honest, I don't see the problem with this. We are starting to hit technological limitations of CableCARD (the data bus on CableCARD is limited to 200mbps - that means if we assume the max bitrate of an HD channel is 15mbps, we are limited to 12 streams.)

The relevant portion of the bill seems to not require operators to use CableCARDs in their STBs. I don't really see that as a big deal - the method of how CableCARDs are used in STBs (provided to the customer bound and never removed) meant that their use was effectively meaningless from a consumer standpoint. From a technical standpoint, they are used rather differently than CableCARDs in retail devices, so I don't really see the benefit here.

The bill seems to require a downloadable security standard - which is reasonable in my opinion. The assumption would be that Ceton, like other companies, would be able to make new products that confirm to this standard, including PC tuners. I haven't been able to find Senator Markey's 's amendment, so if anyone can point me there, I would appreciate it.

*Not that the above was really an official Ceton response, but really, really taking off my Ceton hat now - the below is me personally and no one else*
My honest thoughts reading this is it's a company saying "we don't want to put R&D into our product line to update it as technology changes - we just want to keep shipping the same existing product"
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#10

Post by mdavej » Tue Oct 21, 2014 2:56 pm


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#11

Post by mike_ekim » Tue Oct 21, 2014 4:40 pm

erkotz wrote:OK, I just read the bill (https://www.congress.gov/bill/113th-con ... -bill/2799) and to be honest, I don't see the problem with this.
I am inclined to agree. The bill would modify Section 76.1204, not 76.1205. One downside is that if the cable companies do not have to support cable cards in their own STBs, then they may end up with even worse support for third party solutions.

Bill S.2799
SEC. 203. COMPETITIVE DEVICE AVAILABILITY.
(a) Termination of Effectiveness.--
(1) New navigation devices.--The second sentence of section 76.1204(a)(1) of title 47, Code of Federal Regulations, terminates effective on the date that is 2 years after the date of enactment of this Act.
(2) Revision of regulations.--Not later than 910 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Federal Communications Commission shall revise its regulations to strike the sentence described in paragraph (1) and make any necessary conforming revisions to its regulations.

And the relevant CFR (http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SI ... 4&rgn=div8) says this:

CFR 47
§76.1204 Availability of equipment performing conditional access or security functions.
(a)(1) A multichannel video programming distributor that utilizes navigation devices to perform conditional access functions shall make available equipment that incorporates only the conditional access functions of such devices. Commencing on July 1, 2007, no multichannel video programming distributor subject to this section shall place in service new navigation devices for sale, lease, or use that perform both conditional access and other functions in a single integrated device.
Last edited by mike_ekim on Tue Oct 21, 2014 4:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#12

Post by mike_ekim » Tue Oct 21, 2014 4:47 pm

For those interested, here more of the CFR including the text that describes cablecard availability to consumers. Please note, no part of this text will be modified by the bill. I made some of the text bold. :)
http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/retrieveECF ... 4.76_11205

§76.1205 CableCARD support.
(a) Technical information concerning interface parameters that are needed to permit navigation devices to operate with multichannel video programming systems shall be provided by the system operator upon request in a timely manner.

(b) A multichannel video programming provider that is subject to the requirements of §76.1204(a)(1) must:

(1) Provide the means to allow subscribers to self-install the CableCARD in a CableCARD-reliant device purchased at retail and inform a subscriber of this option when the subscriber requests a CableCARD. This requirement shall be effective August 1, 2011, if the MVPD allows its subscribers to self-install any cable modems or operator-leased set-top boxes and November 1, 2011 if the MVPD does not allow its subscribers to self-install any cable modems or operator-leased set-top boxes;

(i) This requirement shall not apply to cases in which neither the manufacturer nor the vendor of the CableCARD-reliant device furnishes to purchasers appropriate instructions for self-installation of a CableCARD, and a manned toll-free telephone number to answer consumer questions regarding CableCARD installation but only for so long as such instructions are not furnished and the call center is not offered;

(ii) [Reserved]

(2) Effective August 1, 2011, provide multi-stream CableCARDs to subscribers, unless the subscriber requests a single-stream CableCARD;

(3) With respect to professional installations, ensure that the technician arrives with no fewer than the number of CableCARDS requested by the customer and ensure that all CableCARDs delivered to customers are in good working condition and compatible with the customer's device;

(4) Effective August 1, 2011, provide, through the use of a commonly used interface and published specifications for communication, CableCARD-reliant, firmware-upgradable navigation devices the ability to tune simultaneously as many switched-digital channels as the greatest number of streams supported by any set-top box provided by the cable operator, or four simultaneous channels, whichever is greater;

(5) Separately disclose to consumers in a conspicuous manner with written information provided to customers in accordance with §76.1602, with written or oral information at consumer request, and on Web sites or billing inserts;

(i) Any assessed fees for the rental of single and additional CableCARDs and the rental of operator-supplied navigation devices; and,

(ii) If such provider includes equipment in the price of a bundled offer of one or more services, the fees reasonably allocable to:

(A) The rental of single and additional CableCARDs; and

(B) The rental of operator-supplied navigation devices.

(1) CableCARD rental fees shall be priced uniformly throughout a cable system by such provider without regard to the intended use in operator-supplied or consumer-owned equipment. No service fee shall be imposed on a subscriber for support of a subscriber-provided device that is not assessed on subscriber use of an operator-provided device.

(2) For any bundled offer combining service and an operator-supplied navigation device into a single fee, including any bundled offer providing a discount for the purchase of multiple services, such provider shall make such offer available without discrimination to any customer that owns a navigation device, and, to the extent the customer uses such navigation device in lieu of the operator-supplied equipment included in that bundled offer, shall further offer such customer a discount from such offer equal to an amount not less than the monthly rental fee reasonably allocable to the lease of the operator-supplied navigation device included with that offer. For purposes of this section, in determining what is “reasonably allocable,” the Commission will consider in its evaluation whether the allocation is consistent with one or more of the following factors:

(i) An allocation determination approved by a local, state, or Federal government entity;

(ii) The monthly lease fee as stated on the cable system rate card for the navigation device when offered by the cable operator separately from a bundled offer; and

(iii) The actual cost of the navigation device amortized over a period of no more than 60 months.

(c) A cable operator shall not provide misleading information regarding the ability of navigation devices to access switched digital channels.

[76 FR 40279, July 8, 2011]

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#13

Post by erkotz » Tue Oct 21, 2014 5:26 pm

The only real concern I have is that it might be able to be used as a "stepping stone" to another law that gets rid of it entirely. If this law was tied to the implementation of downloadable security standards, (for instance, they can't have downloadable security STBs until 2 years after the standard is created) I would be 100% OK with it.
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#14

Post by richard1980 » Wed Oct 22, 2014 1:35 am

erkotz wrote:My honest thoughts reading this is it's a company saying "we don't want to put R&D into our product line to update it as technology changes - we just want to keep shipping the same existing product"
Exactly.

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#15

Post by shspvr » Fri Nov 07, 2014 4:50 pm

richard1980 wrote:Note the following text from the bill summary:

Terminates, two years after this Act's enactment, the FCC's set-top box integration ban that prohibits MVPDs from placing in service new navigation devices that perform both conditional access and other functions in a single integrated device. Directs the FCC to convene a working group to identify standards for a non-burdensome, uniform, technology-neutral, software-based, downloadable security system that promotes the competitive availability of such devices.

I fail to see how that is "crazy and very anti-consumer". The bill gives the FCC 2 years to come up with a successor technology, which presumably the FCC would require to be deployed before the end of that 2-year window.

With regards to this part of the bill, voting against this bill isn't a bad idea, but voting for it isn't a bad idea either.
This a reply on behalf of Ken the CEO of Hauppauge as he doesn't have a acct here so he said I agree with him

The issue is that CableCard goes away in 2 years even if no standard is decided upon by the FCC. We favor Senator Markey, who wants the standard decided on FIRST, and then CableCard can go away.

You don't tear down the bridge before you have a new one ready to go.

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#16

Post by mike_ekim » Fri Nov 07, 2014 7:06 pm

Imagine this scenario: you want to watch cable TV on your phone/Roku/computer/whatever using your tuner, but your device doesn't have a cablecard slot. So you get a code from your cable provider's website and now you can watch cable. Or they have security handled by your modem. Or there is a code that appears on your TV that you type into an app, like a lot of streaming service authentication. There are a lot of ways that security could be handled, instead of using a cablecard. I would like that capability.

Cable companies use cable cards for two reasons:
1) Cable companies are mandated by law to use cable cards.
2) There is not a replacement standard to take the place of cablecards.

Cablecards suck. The idea behind cablecards is great. I like being liberated from the cable company's set top box. But the cards themselves are a headache. Imagine needing a cable card for Netflix, and another for Hulu, and another for Amazon, and... you get the idea. Other video services can handle security without cablecards. THE CABLE COMPANIES ARE FORCED TO USE CABLECARDS! There are alternatives to cable cards. Do we all love our cable cards so much, that we will fight to keep them? If there is a better way, I am 100% open to a downloadable/electronic modern security system for cable.

If the gov't wants to put together a group that will develop a replacement standard, then the gov't is doing something right (for a change?).
shspvr wrote:
richard1980 wrote:Note the following text from the bill summary:

Terminates, two years after this Act's enactment, the FCC's set-top box integration ban that prohibits MVPDs from placing in service new navigation devices that perform both conditional access and other functions in a single integrated device. Directs the FCC to convene a working group to identify standards for a non-burdensome, uniform, technology-neutral, software-based, downloadable security system that promotes the competitive availability of such devices.

I fail to see how that is "crazy and very anti-consumer". The bill gives the FCC 2 years to come up with a successor technology, which presumably the FCC would require to be deployed before the end of that 2-year window.

With regards to this part of the bill, voting against this bill isn't a bad idea, but voting for it isn't a bad idea either.
This a reply on behalf of Ken the CEO of Hauppauge as he doesn't have a acct here so he said I agree with him

The issue is that CableCard goes away in 2 years even if no standard is decided upon by the FCC. We favor Senator Markey, who wants the standard decided on FIRST, and then CableCard can go away.

You don't tear down the bridge before you have a new one ready to go.
I bolded/underlined two statements which I particularly disagree with.

First: The bill does not state that any new technology will be deployed in 2 years. It states that in 2 years time, group will IDENTIFY STANDARDS. In other words, a document that lists some technical information about encryption and keys and other junk that security people care about. The bill does NOT state that the standards will be implemented. The bill states that the standards will be developed.

Second: Nothing in the bill states that cablecards will 'go away' in 2 years. The bill does not modify the requirement for cable card availability.

I used italics to highlight the word 'presumably'. The text that follows it is presumptuous. And baseless.

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#17

Post by shspvr » Fri Nov 07, 2014 8:27 pm

mike_ekim wrote: Second: Nothing in the bill states that cablecards will 'go away' in 2 years. The bill does not modify the requirement for cable card availability.

I used italics to highlight the word 'presumably'. The text that follows it is presumptuous. And baseless.
This a reply on behalf of Ken the CEO of Hauppauge
I guess you didn't read the whole bill:
"Terminates, two years after this Act's enactment, the FCC's set-top box integration ban that prohibits MVPDs from placing in service new navigation devices that perform both conditional access and other functions in a single integrated device."
Once cable operators integrate conditional access and no longer need to use CableCards, they have no legal obligation to provide cable cards to consumers. This means "cablecard goes away".

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#18

Post by richard1980 » Sat Nov 08, 2014 1:51 am

shspvr wrote:The issue is that CableCard goes away in 2 years even if no standard is decided upon by the FCC.
This bill modifies the integration ban set forth in 47 CFR § 76.1204, but does nothing to modify the requirement for MVPDs to deploy and support CableCARDs set forth in 47 CFR § 76.1204 and 47 CFR § 76.1205. 47 CFR 76.1204(a)(1) would change as follows:

A multichannel video programming distributor that utilizes navigation devices to perform conditional access functions shall make available equipment that incorporates only the conditional access functions of such devices. Commencing on July 1, 2007, no multichannel video programming distributor subject to this section shall place in service new navigation devices for sale, lease, or use that perform both conditional access and other functions in a single integrated device.

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#19

Post by shspvr » Tue Nov 11, 2014 12:52 am

richard1980 wrote:
shspvr wrote:The issue is that CableCard goes away in 2 years even if no standard is decided upon by the FCC.
This bill modifies the integration ban set forth in 47 CFR § 76.1204, but does nothing to modify the requirement for MVPDs to deploy and support CableCARDs set forth in 47 CFR § 76.1204 and 47 CFR § 76.1205. 47 CFR 76.1204(a)(1) would change as follows:

A multichannel video programming distributor that utilizes navigation devices to perform conditional access functions shall make available equipment that incorporates only the conditional access functions of such devices. Commencing on July 1, 2007, no multichannel video programming distributor subject to this section shall place in service new navigation devices for sale, lease, or use that perform both conditional access and other functions in a single integrated device.
This a reply on behalf of Ken the CEO of Hauppauge

"If cable operators have to use CableCARDs in their own devices, then cable operators will supply CableCARDs to retail devices.
If operators don't have to use CableCARDs in their own devices and they stop buying CableCARDs, then basic economics dictate that Moto and Cisco will stop making CableCARDs (or at best dramatically increase pricing) because demand will drop significantly since only competitive boxes will be using CableCARDs and there is no requirement for Moto and Cisco to continue to manufacture them.

This is not just speculation. Charter, in a recent petition to the FCC, said "Charter no longer had any clear obligation to provide CableCARDs" and that "Charter does not have an independent obligation to supply CableCARDs under the statements of other cable operators or CableLabs that preceded the adoption of 76.1204"

It is Hauppauge's position that if cable operators no longer need to use CableCARDs thmselves, the CableCARD device will die a natural death. Within a short period of time (we estimate 2 years), consumers will no longer be able to get CableCARDs from their local cable operator and will be forced to rent all of their cable TV receivers.

Once again, if cable operators no longer need to use CableCARD in their own boxes, the CableCARD technology will disappear and along with this, consumer choice to buy rather than rent will disappear as well.

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#20

Post by richard1980 » Tue Nov 11, 2014 5:09 pm

47 CFR §76.1204(a)(1) states that if an MVPD "utilizes navigation devices to perform conditional access functions", then that MVPD must "make available equipment that incorporates only the conditional access functions of [the navigation devices that perform conditional access functions]." 47 CFR §76.1204(b) explains the equipment that can be used: "Conditional access function equipment made available pursuant to paragraph (a)(1) of this section shall be designed to connect to and function with other navigation devices available through the use of a commonly used interface or an interface that conforms to appropriate technical standards promulgated by a national standards organization." If this bill passes, neither of those requirements will change. An MVPD will not be allowed to deploy a navigation device that performs conditional access functions UNLESS:
  1. The navigation device and/or MVPD is exempted by an FCC waiver or one or more of the exemptions listed in 47 CFR §76.1204, or
  2. The MVPD makes available equipment that performs only the conditional access functions of that navigation device and that equipment is designed to connect to and function with other navigation devices available through the use of a commonly used interface or an interface that conforms to appropriate technical standards promulgated by a national standards organization.
This bill has absolutely no effect on equipment that performs only conditional access functions. This bill does not lift the requirement for the MVPDs to make that equipment available to consumers, nor does it lift the requirement for the equipment to use a commonly used interface or an interface that conforms to appropriate technical standards promulgated by a national standards organization. This bill just lifts the requirement for MVPDs to use such equipment in their own navigation devices. Whether FCC decides to change other rules (e.g., the conditional access equipment rules) as a result of this bill remains to be seen.

Personally, I expect the equipment requirements to stand until after a downloadable security standard is identified. After it is identified, I expect FCC will change the rules to make an exception for MVPDs that transition to the downloadable security system.

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