BellSouth: OpenCable Is Oxymoron

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BellSouth Corp. took a shot at the cable industry's
set-top efforts last week, requesting FCC intervention and calling the OpenCable project
an oxymoron.

The telco said the FCC should allow cable's
competitors to enter the OpenCable standards-setting effort immediately.

That request is unusual on one count, and incorrect on
another, according to Cable Television Laboratory officials.

Michael Schwartz, senior vice president of communications
for CableLabs, said that any entity seeking involvement with OpenCable need only sign a
nondisclosure statement, which can be requested from CableLabs via its Web site.

Secondly, OpenCable develops specifications, not standards,
he said. Any specs developed at CableLabs are handed off to the Society of Cable
Telecommunications Engineers, an ANSI- (American National Standards Institute) accredited

In a prepared statement issued last Tuesday, BellSouth
raged that the chairman of OpenCable -- Bill Schleyer -- ignored a request from BellSouth
to be included in the process.

Schwartz said he was aware of the BellSouth letter to
Schleyer, dated Sept. 15.

"Next thing you know, on Nov. 11, we receive a
nondisclosure agreement" from BellSouth that had probably been requested off the
OpenCable Web site, Schwartz said.

Then, on Nov. 26, BellSouth issued its angry statement.

Schwartz said CableLabs is "now processing"
BellSouth's nondisclosure agreement.

Tom Rawls, vice president and general counsel for BellSouth
Entertainment Inc., made a reference to the July 2000 "navigational device"
deadline, created by the FCC, in the statement.

"If we get much closer to that date without being able
to break into the inner sanctum to find out what's going on and to participate in the
discussion, we face the very real possibility that there will be no way to bring our
existing set-top boxes into compliance with the standard that will be forced down our
throat," Rawls said.