CCIA: FCC Dialing Up Needed 'Navigation Competition'

Group backs set-top proposal, says MVPDs trying to 'hold off' rivals

The Computer & Communications Industry Association said the FCC's set-top box proposal is all about consumer choices and giving users more than the black rotary phone version of video navigation devices.

That has been FCC chairman Tom Wheeler's pitch, likening the 99% rental rate on MVPD-supplied boxes to phone rentals under the old telco system.

"Opening the telephone market to competition was the right decision then, and it’s the right decision for set-top boxes now," said CCIA president Ed Black. "Unlocking the set-top box will bring competition, and consumers will see lower prices and better devices to access TV."

CCIA submitted its reply comments this week on the proposal to require MVPDs to make their set-top content and data available to third party navigation devices and apps as a way to spur a market for them, including by wedding search for traditional and over-the-top content.

CCIA said MVPDs are dragging their feet to prevent new competition.

"[I]t’s easy to see that while phones have evolved into mobile Internet devices, cable’s set-top boxes look about the same as they did 20 years when Congress mandated that the FCC support set-top box competition," Black said.

"Cable has had little incentive to innovate," he added. "Now that it’s about to change, they’re trying every argument they can -- hoping something will stick -- as they try to hold off competition."

The National Cable & Telecommunication Association has argued that the FCC would be abdicating its enforcement authority by relying on a standards body or self-certification process for new, third-party devices.

CCIA said that is off base because the commission would still have authority under the proposal and, even if it didn't, many agencies rely on private self-regulatory organizations without losing their enforcement or review authority.

CCIA members include Google, Amazon, Yahoo!, Netflix, and Facebook.