FCC Talks Up "Gateway" Set-Top Device

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The Federal Communications Commission continues to talk up a "gateway" set-top device-or add-on-that would combine linear video with online capabilities.

It isn't clear the effect of that on cable's business model, or equipment suppliers, FCC broadband advisory Blair Levin said Wednesday, but he added that what was more important was its effect on consumer choice.

FCC Media Bureau chief Bill Lake reiterated his call for TV convergence as a way to help drive broadband adoption -- 99% of households have TVs vs. 76% with computers, the FCC has pointed out before. He also conceded that the FCC's effort to spur a robust retail set-top market had failed, an assessment already mirrored by the cable industry.

But Levin expanded on the issue with reporters in a conference call after the meeting.

"Whether it would be a complimentary thing or a replacement for the box," he said, was unclear and was why the FCC had put out a notice for comment on the proposal. But he said the "lodestar" would be how to get consumers more choice not less.

But he also said his experience as a Wall Street analyst was that cable operators had mixed feelings about the boxes. "Some of them felt it was an opportunity to do certain things that were beneficial. Others felt it was a tremendous burden and they would have loved it if there was an alternative model."

But, ultimately, he suggested, that was cable's problem to work out. "That is of less concern to us than how you have a thriving ecosystem in which consumers are given more choices and innovation."

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