The cable set-top box is not as "smart" or available as it should be, says Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), and the Federal Communications Commission needs to rectify that, including making MVPD's install video gateway devices in all new homes and for all replacement installations as of the end of 2012.
That was the Congressman's message to FCC chairman Julius Genachowski in a letter Wednesday.
Markey, who pointed out he was the author of the 1996 Communications Act provision seeking to spur a retail market for set-top video navigation devices, was preaching to the choir.
The FCC has teed up a vote at its Oct. 14 meeting on proposed changes to the CABLECard rules to make the devices more "consumer friendly" and better promote a competitive marketplace.
Cable operators were required to implement a hardware solution to separating the surfing and security functions in cable digital set-tops. The FCC mandated the separation to goose a retail market in set-tops, but has since conceded it did not work.
While the commission's proposal is to replace the current set-top regime with a universal device capable of integrating traditional and online video, in the meantime it said it wanted to make some tweaks to the CableCARD system to improve it.
Markey wrote that the failure of the CableCARD regime to spur that marketplace was because it was unwieldy and not competitively priced. Markey wants the FCC to insure that CABLECards can be self-installed without the need for additional equipment.
He also wants the commission to launch a proceeding "to make progress" towards a simple, inexpensive gateway device that unites Internet and cable content.
Again, he was essentially adding his imprimatur to a process already underway. The FCC has launched an inquiry into that all-video device, though it has not yet moved to a rulemaking. Genachowski and Media Bureau chief Bill Lake have both indicated their support of uniting Web and traditional video content via a gateway device as a way to promote broadband adoption (given that 99% of households have a TV, compared to 75%-80% with computers).