Cable operators have counted the ways in which they don't want the Federal Communications Commission to mandate a one-size-fits-all device to turn TV sets into multimedia -- cable, broadcast, Internet -- players.
Actually, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association put it positively, outlining in a letter to the FCC the seven "consumer principles" its members were committed to in order to achieve the agency's goal of a competitive retail market in video devices, and one that helps drive broadband adoption by melding cable and Internet video.
"Our industry is committed to providing content to consumers where and when they want it, on all possible consumer devices, and for those devices to be innovative platforms for new applications," wrote NCTA president Kyle McSlarrow.
To that end, said the cable trade group, the best route is not a government requirement that "all devices include the same features for all consumers." In fact, there could be many paths, said NCTA, which the FCC should avoid foreclosing, though the government will need to make sure that any copyright protections on online content on computers extends to their delivery over a TV set.
These could include, for instance, set-back boxes, gateways, network interface units, or delivery from the "cloud" without the need for any dedicated receiving device.
McSlarrow was hitting all the right notes in his letter, with its several references to consumers and its invocation of innovation. Both are high on the list of the letter's recipient, FCC chairman Julius Genachowski.
The NCTA's proposed consumer principles are:
"1. Consumers should have the option to purchase video devices at retail that can access their multichannel provider's video services without a set-top box supplied by that provider.
2. Consumers should also have the option to purchase video devices at retail that can access any multichannel provider's video services through an interface solution offered by that provider.
3. Consumers should have the option to access video content from the Internet through their multichannel provider's video devices and retail video devices.
4. Consumers should have the option to purchase video devices at retail that can search for video content across multiple content sources, including content from their multichannel provider, the Internet, or other sources.
5. Consumers should have the option to easily and securely move video content between and among devices in their homes.
6. Consumers should be assured the benefits of continuous innovation and variety in video products, devices and services provided by multichannel providers and at retail.
7. To maximize consumer benefits and to ensure competitive neutrality in a highly dynamic marketplace, these principles should be embraced by all video providers, implemented flexibly to accommodate different network architectures and diverse equipment options, and, to the maximum extent possible, serve as the basis for private sector solutions, not government technology mandates."