FCC Expected To Cover Gateways, CableCards At April 21 Open Meeting

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The Federal Communications Commission's inquiry into requiring all TV providers to adopt Internet-based video gateways, as well as proposed changes to the current CableCard rules, are among the tentative agenda items for its April 21 open meeting.

In addition, the FCC has proposed an agenda item on a notice of proposed rulemaking concerning Universal Service Fund reform, which proposes "common-sense reforms to the existing high-cost support mechanisms to identify funds that can be refocused toward broadband." The agency also has proposed a notice of inquiry on the use of a model to determine efficient and targeted support levels for broadband deployment in high-cost areas.

As part of the national broadband plan issued last month, the FCC proposed requiring all pay-TV providers to deploy a "gateway" or functional equivalent no later than Dec. 31, 2012, to allow third-party consumer electronics to access TV programming via a standardized IP interface. In addition, the plan recommended that on an expedited basis, the FCC should adopt rules for cable operators by the fall of 2010 "to fix certain CableCard issues while development of the gateway device functionality progresses."

For the April 21 open meeting, the FCC proposed a notice of inquiry seeking comment on the gateway concept as well as a notice of proposed rulemaking concerning the CableCard changes.

National Cable & Telecommunications Association president Kyle McSlarrow has said the national broadband plan's focus on a "gateway" set-top device is worth studying -- but not mandating, or at least only mandating as a last resort -- and he said the CableCard recommendations were "at odds" with the FCC's aim of developing regulations that apply to all multichannel video programming distributors.

The FCC's four proposed changes to CableCard rules would require cable operators to: ensure equal access to linear channels for retail and operator-leased CableCard devices in cable systems with switched digital video; establish "transparent pricing" for CableCards and operator-leased set-top boxes; standardize installation policies for retail and operator-leased CableCard devices; and streamline and accelerate the certification process for retail CableCard devices.

Other items proposed for the agency's April 21 meeting include: the "survivability" notice of inquiry, seeking comment on the present state of survivability in broadband networks and potential measures to reduce vulnerability to network failures; and a cybersecurity certification notice of inquiry, seeking comment on whether the FCC should establish a voluntary program under which participating communications service providers would be certified by the commission or a third party for adherence to cybersecurity objectives and/or practices.

The FCC will issue a public notice of the open meeting agenda one week prior to the April 21 meeting and announce at that time the items that are scheduled for the agenda. That triggers the ex parte prohibitions for meetings with FCC commissioners on those items.

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