FCC's Bill Lake: Time Of Separate TV, Net Is Ending

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FCC Media Bureau chief Bill Lake says the FCC should consider spurring more competition and variety in the set-top box market as one way of helping spur broadband adoption.

That came in a presentation at the FCC's open meeting Wednesday on the status of the national broadband plan and the gaps to rollout and adoption that need to be bridged.

Lake said that the TV and home computer were merging and that television could help drive broadband adoption.

While TV and the Internet have historically been separate, he said, "that time is coming to an end." The two are becoming a single, combined medium, he said, and the marketplace is now looking for a better way to connect the two.

He pointed out that Tivo users can stream Netflix movies, and some brands of TV sets can access Blockbuster movies and YouTube. Given that TV has 99% penetration in U.S. households vs. 76% PC penetration, he said that TV could help "pull" broadband into homes.

But he also said that the FCC's effort to spur a retail market in set-top boxes has not panned out and had failed to spur innovation and variety.

He said the data suggested there were only 14 models of retail boxes versus almost 900 mobile devices, and that 42 times as many subscribers lease their boxes from multichannel video providers as buy them.

He said it was worth looking into whether the FCC could spur adoption by stimulating a "livelier market" in set tops.

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