Cable Ops On Set-Tops: Don't Fence Us In

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Cable operators say the FCC is on the right track in seeking a navigation device that brings together various forms of content, but suggests it is risking locking in set-top standards that could threaten the very flexibility and innovation agency chairman Julius Genachowski promotes.

In comments in the FCC's Notice of Inquiry into creating a navigation device that would wed on-line and traditional video delivery, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association said it was crucial that the commission "leave industry with the flexibility to test and use diverse solutions that can adapt to rapid changes in technology, competition, and consumer demand." NCTA warned against "premature standardization," and artificial restraints in the guise of "common reliance."

It went so far as to say the FCC NOI to some extent "suggests unworkable (and unlawful) elements of disaggregation and disintermediation of the cable business."

While it said that the FCC was trying for the right outcome, the group also suggested its aim was far off. The NOI, said NCTA, "fails to account for how constraining innovation will harm consumers, how data is actually delivered to devices, how devices interact back with the network, how the integrity of programming and advertising is protected, how the distribution of commercial video content is secured through licenses, and the role that intellectual property plays in shaping architectures."

The FCC's goal in the inquiry, launched last April, is to come up with a "gateway" platform that works with all multichannel video providers and that will "spur innovation, draw users to broadband, and change how people perceive and use broadband."

That inquiry is the first step toward implementing the FCC national broadband plan of opening up the market for access to MVPD service and uniting access to broadband and traditional video delivery. The FCC sees that as a way to drive broadband adoption since 99% of homes have televisions, compared with 75%-80% with computers.

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