The AllVid Tech Company Alliance, whose members include Best Buy, Google, Sony Electronics, Intel and TiVo, urged the FCC to establish rules forcing all pay-TV service providers to deliver video to third-party devices via a standard IP interface -- rather than allowing a "short-term," cable-specific exemption to the commission's basic-tier encryption ban.
The Federal Communications Commission issued the AllVid proposed rulemaking in April 2010 as a successor to CableCard, which all parties agree has failed to achieve its objectives of fostering a market for retail cable-ready TV devices. AllVid, as proposed, would require all pay-TV providers to conform to a standard technical way of making video programming available to third-party devices.
The National Cable & Telecommunications Association last month submitted a proposal to the FCC to let third-party devices access encrypted basic-tier programming, as the industry wants the agency to lift the 18-year-old ban on encrypting basic cable to cut theft of service by broadband-only subscribers and dramatically reduce truck rolls.
But the AllVid companies said such a short-term "fix" would be inadequate.
"Without action by the Commission, the days for any standard and direct connection to MVPD programming and services, encrypted or otherwise, are numbered," the AllVid companies said in a filing Wednesday. "Therefore, the AllVid Tech Company Alliance urges the Commission to include in any Basic Tier order a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking toward the only viable answer: a nationally-portable common IP-based interface from MVPD services to consumer devices."
The Consumer Electronics Association also voiced its opposition to the NCTA's proposal, complaining that it does not define the devices or interfaces; that the MSOs' licensing and certification commitments are "lacking or insufficient"; and that the three-year sunset makes the options unworkable for competitive device entry.
The AllVid Tech Company Alliance was formed in early 2011. Other members of the group include Mitsubishi Digital Electronics America, Nagravision and RadioShack.
While the AllVid proceeding remains technically open, several sources told Multichannel News the idea is all but dead in terms of FCC action after opposition from the NCTA and satellite operators. Pay-TV providers say such a regulation would impose significant costs and that they are already -- without any government mandates -- opening up their services to an array of IP-based devices.
The FCC declined to comment on what actions it may take in the AllVid proceeding.
The AllVid Tech Company Alliance argued that a nationally standard interface "can now be readily defined, discussed on the record and implemented" based on specifications from the Digital Living Network Alliance. DLNA will be "the predominant IP-based means of distributing MVPD programming and services to and through home networks," and comprises a "clearly feasible, national and nationally portable interface for any MVPD to support the operation of consumer devices," the AllVid consortium said.
The AllVid companies added, "The transition to more efficient digital techniques should value efficiency for consumers and competitors -- not just for cable operators."
Meanwhile, the AllVid consortium dismissed the existing CableCard regime as a dead end. The technology is licensed by CableLabs only for one-way transmissions, does not natively support switched digital video "and will be bypassed entirely by MVPD conversions to IP transmission," the alliance noted.