AllVid Alliance: 'Shiny' Apps Aren't Replacement For Open Video Standard

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The AllVid Tech Company Alliance -- a lobbying group whose members include Google, Sony, TiVo and Best Buy -- argued in comments with the FCC that pay-TV providers' individual efforts to deliver programming to non-TV devices are not enough to meet a Congressional mandate that consumers be able to access TV programming on any device they choose.

"Section 629 of the Communications Act is not satisfied by consumers being able to download an MVPD's [multichannel video programming distributor's] app on a particular brand of television set or 'cable systems...developing new ways to use the Internet,'" the group said in comments filed Friday with the FCC, citing June 8 comments by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.

The group continued, "While MVPDs point to the latest 'shiny thing over there,' they ignore the Section 629 mandate of the Communications Act. The Commission must not lose sight of the fact that Congress directed the Commission to foster a competitive retail market for navigation devices used by consumers to access the full range of services offered by MVPDs, and to access that programming and those services through manufacturers, retailers and other vendors not affiliated with any MVPD."

AllVid is the FCC's proposal to force pay-TV providers to conform to a common set of protocols and specifications to let any compliant device access programming in an IP-based video format.

The AllVid Tech Company Alliance, formed earlier this year, currently comprises: Best Buy, Google, Intel, Mitsubishi Electric Visual Solutions America, Nagravision, RadioShack, Sony Electronics and TiVo.

The group pointed to the Digital Living Network Alliance's recently released Commercial Video Profile, interoperability guidelines and standards references for home networks developed by, among others, cable, satellite and telecommunications service providers as a potential solution for implementing AllVid. "DLNA member companies seek to create new products that are compatible by using open standards and widely available industry specifications," the AllVid Tech Company Alliance said.

Cable operators and programmers, as well as other pay-TV providers including DirecTV and Verizon, have argued the AllVid rules are unnecessary, as providers are already working to bring TV content to multiple different devices -- faster, they assert, than government-set rules would.

In addition, they say AllVid would impose significant compliance costs. And, according to the NCTA, AllVid would in effect turn pay-TV operators into wholesalers of television programming and violate copyright, trademark, contract, licensing and other rights.

In its most recent comments, the AllVid Tech Company Alliance countered, "A competitive market for navigation devices based on an IP interface would allow consumers to choose the best technologies and products in the marketplace personalized to their preferences, instead of relying on the decisions that service providers have made for them."

As an example of the kinds of products that could become available under an AllVid regime, the coalition cited Ocean Blue Software's "Talk@TV," which is an effort in the U.K. to develop a set-top box that provides text-to-speech translation of on-screen guide information designed for the elderly and people with visual impairments. "American consumers deserve similar choices," the group wrote.

The AllVid Tech Company Alliance said that like the Carterfone decision, which allowed telephone customers to use their own equipment without having to lease it from AT&T, a national video standard through an AllVid approach "will allow consumers to stop renting set-top boxes from MVPDs and allow a competitive market in equipment used to access multichannel video programming and other services offered over MVPD systems."

The group's filing is available here: