FCC's AllVid: Obsolete on Day One


More than 40 parties filed responses in the last two days to the FCC’s notice of inquiry regarding its AllVid proposal (including the NCTA: see Cable Ops On Set-Tops: Don’t Fence Us In).

Quick recap: As described in the FCC’s NOI, an AllVid-compatible gateway or device would let consumers access any pay-TV service and any source of broadband-delivered content. The rule would also likely require cable, satellite and telco operators to fundamentally overhaul their video-delivery networks — the costs for which would be passed along to all subscribers, since the FCC wants every set-top deployed starting in 2013 to be AllVid-iotic (see Death Row For the Integrated Set-Top, Son of CableCard, Goodbye Tru2way, Hello To ‘AllVid’ and FCC AllVid Rule Would ‘Ban The Set-Top As We Know It’: Analyst).

Out of the latest batch of responses, two points stood out to me.

First was from Cablevision Systems, which noted that AllVid represents a move to fix network intelligence into customer-premises devices. That would stall — or even prohibit — the introduction of so-called “cloud-based” services and features. For example, Cablevision pointed out, there are currently no standards for delivering many of the MSO’s network-based services, including RS-DVR, caller ID on TV, search and interactive advertising applications.

“Simply stated, innovation in the headend cannot translate into new services for consumers if new capabilities and functionalities are tethered to an AllVid adapter designed by committee,” Cablevision said in its comments. “At a minimum, AllVid would introduce another layer of complexity and cost into the calculus of getting new services, features and functionalities to end users.”

As Cablevision summed up: ”From a network capability perspective, the AllVid adapter is legacy on the day that it is deployed.”

The second interesting point was from Ohio’s Massillon Cable TV. That operator in 2009 converted to 100% digital through digital transport adapters (see Let’s Party Like It’s 6/12/2009!). What the cable company found after throwing the all-digital switch was that a significant number of customers simply used their digital TVs, with built-in QAM tuners, to access programming, Massillon president Bob Gessner wrote in comments.

“When given a choice, many consumers choose to use their digital TV set without a set-top box,” Gessner said. AllVid, on the other hand, “seems to remove that choice completely,” by requiring all TVs to need some kind of AllVid adapter.

“If the Commission establishes rules that require every MVPD to install some type of gateway device, the Commission will limit consumer choice, increase consumer cost and relegate one of the most ubiquitious navigation devices” — i.e., digital TVs — “to the scrap heap,” Gessner wrote.